NIGHTWATCH: Pakistan Continues to Scew Afghanistan

08 Wild Cards

Afghanistan-Pakistan: President Karzai flew to Islamabad to hold meetings with the new government in Islamabad. Karzai is seeking Pakistani assistance in facilitating talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Comment: Karzai's instincts are accurate in focusing on Pakistan. Without Quetta and continuous Pakistani official protection, the Afghan Taliban leadership would have had no place from which to operate. Pakistan has placed no restrictions on Mullah Omar except to focus on undermining US and NATO operations in Afghanistan and leave Pakistan alone. Omar and the Pakistani government have both been faithful to the agreement.

President Karzai's visit is nearly a last ditch effort to get help from Pakistan by reaching out to the new government in Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cannot control the Pakistani Taliban and has made no policy statements about controlling the Afghan Taliban leaders. They have lived with impunity, comfort and freedom of movement and communications in Quetta since 2001. Nawaz Sharif has shown no inclination to change Pakistan's permissive policy towards the Afghan Taliban leaders.

A direct appeal to a new prime minister after years of frustration in dealing with the former government is worth a try. Nevertheless, the prospects for greater cooperation are vanishingly small. After 12 years, the conclusion is inescapable that Pakistani intelligence and security agencies never have had any intention of arresting or restraining Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura advisers. They have enjoyed more and more effective protection than Osama bin Laden.

Thus, Pakistani policy has ensured that NATO forces would win every battle, but ultimately lose the war when the Afghan Taliban returned to power in Kabul. That is the only outcome that would guarantee that Afghanistan would remain pro-Pakistan in the larger strategic struggle between China with its proxies – Pakistan and the next Afghan government – and India, standing alone. Under any other outcome, Afghanistan would remain neutral or pro-India. Pakistan, including the Nawaz Sharif government, will not tolerate either other outcome.

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