Here we review another cable from a series of declassified documents from the American Embassy in Islamabad to the US Secretary of State's office in Washington, DC.
This is a cable dated 18 Oct 95; Subject: PAKISTAN AFGHAN POLICY: ANYONE BUT RABBANI/MASOOD - EVEN THE TALIBAN.
Note that the abbreviation used below, GOP, refers to the Government of Pakistan.
1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT.
2. SUMMARY: DURING AN OCTOBER 17 CALL BY CHARGE AND POLOFF, PAK AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN QAZI HUMAYUN EXPLAINED THAT IN THE WAKE OF LAST MONTH'S SACKING OF THE PAK EMBASSY IN KABUL, GOP AFGHAN POLICY HAS BEEN INCREASINGLY DRIVEN BY INTENSE DOMESTIC OPPOSITION TO THE KABUL GOVERNMENT. THUS PAKISTAN NOW FINDS ITSELF IN THE UNCOMFORTABLE POSITION OF BACKING THE TALIBAN. HUMAYUN OPINED THAT IN MANY WAYS A TALIBAN GOVERNMENT IN KABUL WOULD BE EVEN WORSE THAN THE PRESENT ONE, ADDING THAT A STATE UNDER SUCH ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP WOULD NOT MAKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR. [redacted] HE SAID HE WAS NOT OPTIMISTIC ON PROSPECTS FOR AN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE AGAINST KABUL -- "THE TALIBAN STILL THINK THEY CAN GO IT ALONE AND ARE NOT SERIOUSLY PURSUING AN ALLIANCE." [redacted] HUMAYUN PLANS "SOON" TO OPEN A "LOW KEY PRESENCE" IN JALALABAD, A STEP THAT COULD FUEL CREATION OF A PARALLEL GOVERNMENT THERE SHOULD THE BATTLE FOR KABUL REMAIN A STALEMATE. END SUMMARY
Interesting how it worked out - Pakistan found itself somewhat compelled to support a group which it had helped set up, but which was already getting out of control.
3. IN A WIDE-RANGING CONVERSATION OCTOBER 17 WITH CHARGE AND POLOFF, PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN QAZI HUMAYUN [redacted] AS HUMAYUN PUT IT, THE GOP POLICY AIM HAD BEEN TO MAINTAIN TIES WITH ALL THE FACTIONS, INCLUDING RABBANI/MASOOD. AS EVIDENCE, HE CITED THE TOUR OF AFGHANISTAN THIS SUMMER BY FOREIGN MINISTER ASEFF ALI, WHICH INCLUDED A STOP IN KABUL. HOWEVER, FOLLOWING THE SEPTEMBER 6 AFGHAN GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED TRASHING OF THE PAK EMBASSY IN KABUL (DURING WHICH HUMAYUN WAS SEVERELY BEATEN), PAK POLICY INCREASINGLY HAS BEEN DRIVEN BY INTENSE DOMESTIC OPPOSITION TO THE KABUL GOVERNMENT. [redacted extensively]
Perhaps for my American readers, it is worth recalling American attitudes toward Iran following the sacking of the US embassy in Tehran in the early days of Khomeini's regime, for comparison with likely Pakistani attitudes regarding Afghanistan in the wake of the September, 1995, sacking of Pakistan's embassy in Kabul.
4. HE EXPLAINED THAT A TALIBAN-LED GOVERNMENT IN KABUL COULD BE EVEN WORSE THAN THE PRESENT SITUATION. THINKING ALOUD, HUMAYUN MUSED THAT A TALIBAN GOVERNMENT WOULD BE REPUGNANT NOT ONLY TO THE PAK GOVERNMENT (WHICH HE DESCRIBED AS "MODERN AND TOLERANT"), BUT ALSO TO MOST PAKISTANIS WHO DO NOT SHARE THE TALIBAN'S "OBSCURANTIST" VIEWS, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE ROLE OF WOMEN. HUMAYUN OPINED THAT HAVING SUCH A STATE AS A NEIGHBOR WOULD NOT BE IN PAKISTAN'S INTERESTS. [redacted extensively
Was Humayan here being candid - did he not know of Pakistani involvement with the Taliban?
Or, did he know about it, but already see that the situation was spinning out of control?
Or, was he being deceitful, covering up his government's role?
While much of Pakistan is fairly modern and cosmopolitan, there are vast groups of people in Pakistan who are far more conservative; there are other groups that are extremist. And, certain elements in the military have long had extensive ties with these groups.
5. ASSESSING ONGOING EFFORTS IN PESHAWAR AND JALALABAD BY THE AFGHAN OPPOSITION FACTIONS TO ACHIEVE A MILITARY AND/OR POLITICAL ALLIANCE, HUMAYUN OBSERVED THAT PROSPECTS FOR ACHIEVING A COALITION ANY TIME SOON ARE NOT BRIGHT. HE SAID THE CURRENT TALKS ARE MORE FORM THAN SUBSTANCE AS THE TALIBAN STILL THINK THEY CAN GO IT ALONE IN DEFEATING RABBANI/MASOOD AND THUS HAVE NO INCENTIVE FOR CUTTING A DEAL WITH DOSTAM OR THE SUPREME COORDINATING COUNCIL.
There is perhaps a great deal of truth to this statement. Historically, there have always been personalities and tribal considerations in Afghanistan's politics. Afghans were fairly united against the Soviet invasion during the jihad, but in the absence of a perceived external enemy, there has seldom been unity.
Here, the two poles of unity we see (kind of) forming are one among the people against the lawlessness and chaos, and another against the Taliban among the various factions maneuvering for power.
[Paragraph 6 redacted in its entirety.]
[Paragraph 7 redacted in its entirety.]
8. ASSESSING THE SITUATION IN HERAT CITY, HE NOTED THAT THE PAK CONSUL GENERAL THERE HAS REPORTED THE CITY CALM. ECHOING SENTIMENTS VOICED ON OCTOBER 16 BY AN AMCIT WITH OVER 20 YEARS EXPERIENCE IN AFGHANISTAN, HUMAYUN SAID THE TALIBAN HAD BEEN HEAVY-HANDED IN HERAT, ESPECIALLY CLOSING DOWN SCHOOLS AND THEN RE-OPENING THEM FOR BOYS ONLY AND IN PREVENTING WOMEN FROM WORKING IN OFFICES (WITH THE EXCEPTION OF HEALTH CARE). HE IS HOPEFUL THAT THE NEW TALIBAN GOVERNOR EHSA NULLAH WILL BE MORE SENSITIVE IN DEALING WITH THE HERATIS. HE SAID THE GOVERNOR HAS ALREADY AGREED TO RECONSIDER THESE TOUGH TALIBAN MEASURES, THOUGH WITHOUT DEFINING A TIMETABLE.
Was Humayun, if aware of Pakistan's role in the rise of the Taliban, starting to realize that a monster had been created?
9. HUMAYUN SAID THAT "IN A COUPLE OF DAYS" HE PLANS TO GO TO JALALABAD TO "OPEN A SMALL, LOW-KEY PRESENCE." HE OFFERED NO FURTHER DETAILS. MEANWHILE, PAK RELATIONS WITH KABUL TOOK A FURTHER TURN FOR THE WORSE ON OCT 17 WITH THE GOP EXPULSION OF ANOTHER BATCH OF AFGHAN DIPLOMATES, INCLUDING THE CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, WHO JOIN AMBASSADOR KHALILI AND SEVERAL OTHER AFGHAN DIPLOMATS WHO WERE PNG'ED ON OCT 8.
I am not sure why the diplomats were expelled. Presumably it was related to Afghan government complicity in the attack on the Pakistani embassy in Kabul. If relations had been going that bad - no wonder Islamabad wanted to get rid of the Kabul government?
10. COMMENT: [Comment redacted in its entirety.] HOLZMAN