Some peculiarities in this cable include the subject, where Afghanistan appears as AFGHAN I STAN, and in the body, where Taliban appears as TALL BAN. I have tried to fix other typos.
SUBJECT: PAK FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS U.S. COOPERATION ON AFGHAN I STAN
1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY LEE O. COLDREN, DIRECTOR, SA/PAB, DEPARTMENT OF STATE. REASON: 1.5(D).
2. (C) SUMMARY:
PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER ASSEF ALL MET WITH ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT FEBRUARY 9 TO REQUEST CLOSER POLICY COORDINATION ON AFGHANISTAN AIMED AT REDUCING THE RECENT INCREASE OF FOREIGN MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO THE KABUL AUTHORITIES. THE ACTING SECRETARY NOTED THAT PAKISTANI SUPPORT, AND THE PRESUMED BUT MISTAKEN IMPRESSION OF U.S. ASSISTANCE FOR THE ISLAMIST TALL BAN MOVEMENT HAD STIMULATED MOSCOW AND TEHERAN TO INCREASE ASSISTANCE TO RABBANI AND MASOOD. THE U.S. SHARED PAKISTANI CONCERN OVER INCREASED INTERFERENCE AND AGREED THAT AFGHAN INSTABILITY AND EXPORT OF TERRORISTS AND DRUGS AFFECTED OUR COMMON INTERESTS.
HOWEVER, PAKISTAN WOULD NEED TO REESTABLISH A POLICY OF MORE VISIBLE NEUTRALITY BEFORE IT WOULD BECOME PRACTICAL TO ACT IN CONCERT TO STRENGTHEN THE UN SPECIAL MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN. ALL CATEGORICALLY DENIED THAT PAKISTAN PROVIDED MILITARY ASSISTANce TO THE TALIBAN AND URGED THE U.S. TO WORK WITH PAKISTAN ON THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF A PEACE PLAN WHICH WOULD BECOME THE UN PLAN. DURING THE 70 MINUTE MEETING ALL ALSO TOUCHED BRIEFLY ON INDO-PAKISTAN RELATIONS, KASHMIR, U.S. EFFORTS TO PREVENT AN INDIAN NUCLEAR TEST, AND U.S. MEDIA TREATMENT OF SINO-PAKISTANI NUCLEAR COOPERATION.
Pakistan, as we have seen, made a decision to support the Taliban early on. In fact, when the Taliban gained their first military victory at the town of Spin Boldak along the Pakistani border, it was with support from artillery units that shelled the Taliban's enemies from inside Pakistan.
Very quickly, however, it became apparent that the Taliban was not Pakistan's puppets.
Later on, the added problem developed that the other neighboring powers, especially Iran and Russia, became concerned about the threats to their interests posed by the rise of the Taliban. Iran was concerned about the threat to Shi'ites and people of Persian-type ethnicities, while Russia was concerned that the extremist Sunni-brand of Islam propogated by the Taliban might spread to the predominantly Sunni and Turkic peoples of Central Asia, causing for Russia a problem like that faced by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan -- violent Islamic militants battling the secular regimes that were friendly to Moscow. Consequently, both Iran and Russia (as well as other regional powers) began supporting the Kabul government; in Iran's case, this was a reversal of a policy against the government in Kabul.
Pakistan found itself in the unenviable position of having to support a movement which did not take its orders from Islamabad, and which was in fact causing Islamabad some real problems, all to maintain influence.
3. (C) MISPERCEPTION OF U.S. AFGHAN ROLE IN CENTRAL ASIA
IN HIS JANUARY 9 MEETING WITH PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER SARDAR ASSEF ALL, ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT RECALLED THAT HE VISITED AFGHANISTAN SEVERAL TIMES AS A JOURNALIST AND IS WELL AWARE OF WHAT IS AT STAKE THERE. THE RECENT INCREASE IN EXTERNAL INTERFERENCE IS SIMILAR TO POLARIZATION DURING THE COLD WAR. ONE PROBLEM IS THE WIDE BUT MISTAKEN PRESUMPTION THAT THE U.S. IN IN LEAGUE WITH PAKISTAN IN SUPPORTING THE TALIBAN. INDEED, WE ARE RECEIVING WARNING SIGNALS FROM CENTRAL ASIA STATES WHO ASK WHY PAKISTAN AND THE U.S. ARE SUPPORTING A MOVEMENT OF FANATIC ISLAMIC CRUSADERS. THE REPUTATION OF THE TALIBAN IS VERY UPSETTING TO COUNTRIES WHOSE GOVERNMENTS FEAR ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM, NOT ONLY IN CENTRAL ASIA BUT ALSO IN RUSSIA AND INDIA.
This is an interesting question, especially in light of what we now know from the Sibel Edmonds case. Indeed, at the time, the United States was supporting Islamic extremists in the Balkans (and still is, despite a change of administrations).
Perhaps it was not official U.S. policy -- at least not overtly -- to support the Taliban. But, certainly there were those factions that had been working in close league with Pakistan, especially with Pakistan's ISI, during the jihad in the 1980's. Were there ties ever dissolved? Were they -- on both the U.S. and Pakistani side -- furthering the foreign policy of their respective countries? Or, were they rogue elements?
The net result, as we now know, is that more than ten years later, heroin production in the region is at an all-time high. Despite some Taliban pronouncements against it, and a decrease in opiate production that was due as much to drought as to anything else, opiate production increased from the time the Taliban took power until the time they were driven out by a U.S.-led coalition in the wake of 9/11. Since then, opiate production has increased even more, with both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance implicated, though the Islamic extremists of the Taliban and their allies al Qaeda are far more implicated, as heroin production -- which has grown comfortable in Afghanistan, with actual refining of heroin now occuring in Afghanistan, rather than elsewhere -- came to be viewed as the golden sword of jihad.
Were all American factions on the same sheet of music during the Taliban's rise to power? Or, might there have been some American factions helping the Taliban, thus gaining the United States the reputation as one of the Taliban's de facto sponsors?
4. (C) ASSEF ALL MENTIONS NON-PRO AND INDO-PAK ISSUES
BEFORE RESPONDING ON AFGHANISTAN, ASSEF ALL TOUCHED BRIEFLY ON A RANGE OF REGIONAL AND BILATERAL ISSUES. HE THANKED THE ADMINISTRATION FOR ITS EFFORTS ON THE BROWN AMENDMENT, NOTING THAT HIS GOVERNMENT REALIZES THERE ARE NOW SENSITIVE IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES. SAYING THAT HE FREQUENTLY DISCUSSED PAKISTAN-CHINESE RELATIONS WITH PRIME MINISSTER BHUTTO, HE AVERRED THAT CHINA WAS HELPING TO BUILD A POWER REACTOR IN PAKISTAN FOR PEACEFUL PURPOSES ONLY. HE EXPRESSED SHOCK OVER THE CONTINUING MEDIA ATTENTION BEING GIVEN TO "THE MAGNET ISSUE". INDO-PAKISTAN RELATIONS CONTINUED TO DETERIORATE BUT THIS WAS LARGELY A RESULT OF THE POPULARITY OF BASHING PAKISTAN PRIOR TO NATIONAL ELECTIONS. IN INDIA HE REFERRED TO THE ROCKET THAT DESTROYED A MOSQUE IN AZAD KASHMIR ON REPUBLIC DAY AS A SIGN OF INDIAN HOSTILITY. FINALLY HE EXPRESSED CONTINUING PAKISTANI CONCERN WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF AN INDIAN NUCLEAR TEST, NOTING THAT INDIA HAS NOT GIVEN A CATEGORICAL PLEDGE NOT TO TEST. SUCH A TEST, HE SAID, WOULD PUT AN END TO CTBT HOPES. HE HOPED THE U.S. WILL CONTINUE TO RESTRAIN INDIA BY STRONGLY ADVISING THEM NOT TO TEST.
To accurately understand Pakistan's support for the Taliban, one must understand that as India gained its independence from Britain in the 1940's, there was agitation for an Islamic state for the Muslims in the subcontinent. The agitators may not have in fact wanted a separate state, but rather may have been fanning the flames of political Islam as a bargaining chip. Regardless, Islam has since been the unifying ideology of Pakistan, which otherwise has a plethora of ethnic minorities; the role of Islam as opposed to Hindu India -- a concept frequently emphasized during the 1940's and beyond -- became so prominent that ethnic calls for autonomy from Islamabad came to be viewed not just as treasonous, but as un-Islamic.
One of newly-independent Pakistan's first moves was to support mujahideen in Kashmir. Once this ideology took root, and once this infrastructure for jihad was established, it took on a life of its own. It was useful in the jihad against the Soviets, and it was useful to support the Taliban, who were seen as a friendly force that would stabilize Afghanistan.
Regardless, Pakistan's support of the Taliban needs to be seen in the context of its ongoing troubles with India -- a friendly jihadist nation behind Pakistan would secure a flank from Indian (and other) meddling, and provide strategic depth against India's superior numbers.
Significant that India was addressed before Afghanistan?
5. (C) PAKISTAN CONCERNED WITH INCREASED INTERFERENCE
TURNING TO AFGHANISTAN, FOREIGN MINISTER ASSEF ALL MAINTAINED THAT TWO YEARS AGO PAKISTAN FOLLOWED A POLICY OF NEUTRALITY TOWARD THE WARRING AFGHAN FACTIONS, AND SEARCHED FOR A PEACEFUL SOLUTION DRAWING ON BROAD-BASED SUPPORT. HOWEVER, OTHER COUNTRIES INTERFERED AND PAKISTAN WAS NOW THE ONLY COUNTRY WITHOUT GOOD RELATIONS WITH RABBANI AND MASOOD DESPITE PAKISTAN'S ROLE IN BROKERING THE ACCORDS THAT ORIGINALLY PUT THEM IN KABUL. ORIGINALLY PART OF A WIDER COALITION, RABBANI CULTIVATES OUTSIDE SUPPORT ONLY TO CONQUER EVERYONE ELSE. ALL ASSERTED THAT WHILE THE KABUL REGIME CONTROLS ONLY 4 PROVINCES AND REPRESENTS ONLY THE TAJIK MINORITY, IT NONETHELESS IS RECEIVING A MAJOR INFLUX OF ARMS. RUSSIA, IRAN AND INDIA PROVIDE HUNDREDS OF FLIGHTS OF AMMUNITION AND FUEL TO KABUL PER MONTH. ISLAMABAD HAS TRIED TO EXTEND THE HAND OF FRIENDSHIP TO KABUL, BUT HAS MET HARSH REBUFFS SUCH AS THE FATAL ATTACK ON PERSONNEL AND THE BURNING OF THE PAKISTANI EMBASSY LAST SEPTEMBER.
Allegations -- credible ones -- of Indian involvement in Afghanistan, in addition to involvement of Iran and Russia. Support for the Taliban may have been sold to moderate, secular Pakistanis as a necessary evil, given the geostrategic situation.
6. (C) IRAN HAS EXPANSIONIST AIMS
ELABORATING ON MASSIVE IRANIAN MILITARY SUPPORT FOR KABUL, ASSEF ALL ASSERTED THAT IRAN CONSIDERED PERSIAN-SPEAKING WESTERN AFGHANISTAN AS PART OF IRAN. TEHERAN HAD SHIFTED FROM PLAYING THE "SHIA CARD" TO ATTEMPTING TO EXTEND ITS INFLUENCE OVER ALL PERSIAN SPEAKING AFGHANS. INDEED, BY COURTING GENERAL DOSTAM THEY HOPED TO OBTAIN A FREE HAND IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN IN ORDER TO EXPAND INFLUENCE INTO TAJIKISTAN AND, ULTIMATELY, CHINA. MOREOVER, IRAN DID NOT WANT STABILITY IN AFGHANISTAN AS THIS WOULD ENABLE AFGHANISTAN TO SERVE AS A COMPETING LANDBRIDGE FOR CENTRAL ASIAN TRADE.
7. (C) U.S. INVOLVEMENT TO PROTECT SHARED INTERESTS
CITING BOTH NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING AND THE EXPORT OF TERRORISM FROM AFGHANISTAN AS HARMFUL TO BOTH PAKISTAN AND THE U.S., ALL ALSO SAID THE EVOLVING VIEWS ABOUT AMERICA IN AFGHANISTAN WERE A PROBLEM. THE AFGHANS FELT THAT THEY HAD BEEN ABANDONED BY THE U.S. AT THE END OF THE COLD WAR, AN EVENT WHICH WAS PARTIALLY THE RESULT OF THEIR RESISTANCE TO THE U.S.S.R. THE U.S. POLICY OF SUPPORTING THE UN SPECIAL MISSION LEADER MESTIRI, WHO IS CONSIDERED MORE AN OBSERVER THAN A SERIOUS MEDIATOR, WAS SEEN, HE SAID, AS COVER FOR A BASIC LACK OF INTEREST AND COMMITMENT TO PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN. THIS VIEW WAS BEING USED BY RADICALS WHO PORTRAYED THE U.S. AS AN ENEMY OF ISLAM, THOUGH U.S. ACTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS AND IN BOSNIA HAD UNDERMINED THAT VIEW.
No matter what we do, the radicals view us as the Great Satan -- no surprise there.
Continued in Part 27.