This is an April 14, 1996, cable from the US Embassy in Islamabad to the US Secretary of State's office, and addresses a discussion between a US delegation (Senator Brown and Congressman Wilson) and Pakistani officials about Afghanistan policy. The acronym GOP here means Government of Pakistan.
SUBJECT: SENATOR BROWN AND CONGRESSMAN WILSON DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN WITH PAKISTANI OFFICIALS
REF: ISLAMABAD 2945
1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY JOHN C. HOLZMAN, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, EMBASSY ISLAMABAD. REASON: 1.5 (D).
2. (C) PRIME MINISTER BHUTTO TOLD SENATOR BROWN (R-CO) AND CONGRESSMAN WILSON (D-TX) APRIL 7 THAT THE GOP BACKED THE U.N., NOT THE TALIBAN, IN AFGHANISTAN. SHE SAID A TRANS-AFGHAN GAS/OIL PIPELINE WAS NEEDED QUICKLY TO MEET GROWING PAKISTANI DEMAND, PROVIDE AN OUTLET FOR THE CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS OTHER THAN VIA IRAN AND RUSSIA AND TO HELP BRING PEACE TO AFGHANISTAN. THE PM SAID THE U.S. SHOULD HAVE REPRESENTATION INSIDE AFGHANISTAN, NOTING THAT KANDAHAR AND JALALABAD WERE SECURE; SHE URGED THE U.S. TO PLAY A MORE ACTIVE ROLE, SAYING SHE FEARED AFGHANISTAN COULD DISSOLVE UNLESS STEPS TO PROMOTE PEACE WERE TAKEN SOON. FOREIGN MINISTER ASSEF ALI, IN A SEPARATE MEETING, SAID PAKISTAN WANTS TO WORK WITH THE US, EU AND RUSSIA TO DRAFT A SET OF "PRINCIPLES" TO GOVERN A FUTURE AFGHAN PEACE PLAN, AND THAT HE HOPES TO WORK ON THE DRAFT PRINICPLES WITH SA A/S RAPHEL ON HER UPCOMING VISIT. ASSEF ALI ASKED SEN. BROWN TO TELL AFGHAN PRESIDENT RABBANI THAT PAKISTAN IS NOT AGAINST THE KABUL GOVERNMENT, WILL NOT BUILD ROADS OR SIGN A PIPELINE AGREEMENT WITHOUT KABUL'S ASSENT, AND IS WILLING TO TALK TO SETTLE OUSTANDING DIPLOMATIC PROBLEMS. END SUMMARY.
PM BHUTTO ON AFGHANISTAN
3. (C) PRIME MINISTER BENAZIR BHUTTO TOLD VISITING SENATOR HANK BROWN AND CONGRESSMAN CHARLIE WILSON OVER LUNCH APRIL 7 THAT THE PERCEPTION PUT ABOUT BY THE KABUL GOVERNMENT AND OTHERS THAT HER GOVERNMENT WAS BACKING THE TALIBAN WAS SIMPLY UNTRUE. INSTEAD, SHE NOTED, PAKISTAN STRONGLY SUPPORTS THE U.N. PEACE MISSION. STRESSING THE NEED TO BRING PEACE QUICKLY TO AFGHANISTAN TO PREVENT ITS POSSIBLE DISSOLUTION INTO A TALIBAN, PASHTUN SOUTH AND A PRO-IRANIAN, MINORITY ETHNIC NORTH, THE PM SUGGESTED THAT A TRANS-AFGHAN PIPELINE COULD HELP ACHIEVE A NATIONAL RECONCILIATION SINCE, SHE STATED, THE KABUL GOVERNMENT AND ALL THE OTHER FACTIONS SUPPORTED THE PROJECT. THE PIPELINE SHOULD BE BEGUN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, SHE REMARKED, BEFORE OTHER ROUTES CAME ON LINE; THE GOA SHOULD BE TO PROVIDE AN OUTLET FOR THE CENTRAL ASIAN STATES WHICH DID NOT RUN THROUGH RUSSIA OR IRAN. THE PM WAS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE PIPELINE IDEA, WHICH SHE SAID WOULD HELP MEET PAKISTANI DEMAND FOR GAS AND ALSO WOULD ENCOURAGE EFFORTS TOWARDS NATIONAL RECONCILIATION IN AFGHANISTAN. THE PM URGED THE UNITED STATES TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN AFGHANISTAN, SAYING THE U.S. SHOULD HAVE REPRESENTATION INSIDE THE COUNTRY -- PERHAPS IN EITHER KANDAHAR OR JALALABAD WHERE SECURITY WAS GOOD. THE U.S. SHOULD GIVE MORE BACKING TO THE U.N. TO HELP ESTABLISH A BROAD-BASED GOVERNMENT, BUT FIRST A PEACE FORCE WOULD BE NEEDED, THE PM CONCLUDED.
Of course there is the possibility that Prime Minister Bhutto was being deceptive here, but I would rather focus on the possibility that she was telling the truth as she saw it.
As we have seen in previous posts, there are extensive ties between the Pakistani military and Islamic extremists in Pakistan. One reason for these ties dates back to the 1940's, when Muslims in what was then India under British administration agitated for independence in a separate state. It is possible this was just a negotiating position, intended to be yielded in exchange for significant autonomy within a federal Indian structure. Regardless, the idea took on a life of its own, and a few short years later, when India was granted its independence, this was done dividing the country into India and Pakistan; Pakistan was the Muslim state, divided at the time into East and West Pakistan, what is now Bangladesh and Pakistan.
During this time, ethnic rivalries that detracted from the push for Muslim Pakistan were painted as un-Islamic, and later, as hostilities came into being between India and Pakistan, Islam was the rallying point to unite Pakistanis in the face of India's numerical superiority. Islam came to be seen as patriotic, and anything un-Islamic was seen as treasonous.
The Pakistani military also began to use the madrassas. Religious students were taught these ideas regarding patriotism, Islamism, and unity against the infidels -- mainly India -- and many were then fed into special camps where they learned the military arts needed by Islamic holy warriors. The mujahideen were then used in a proxy fight against India in Jammu and Kashmir.
The classic formula of state-sponsored terrorism developed. While everybody knew of the connections between the Kashmiri terrorists and Pakistan, Islamabad could always say that the terrorists were independent of Islamabad and thus were not supported by the Pakistani government. Any support the terrorists received could be painted as the unsanctioned activity of rogue elements in the Pakistani armed forces. These lines of diplomatic defense would be adequate to prevent India from garnering world support to deal decisively with Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, so much more so since this was happening against a backdrop of the Cold War, where Pakistan was intended by the United States to help shore up the anti-communist flank in Asia, and where Moscow was thus cultivating ties with the world's largest democracy, India, as a counterbalance to American efforts in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere along the Soviet Union's southern border.
The ties between Pakistan's military and Islamic militants have continued ever since. In the intervening years, Pakistan has seen few years of civilian rule. During the 1980's, the Islamic militant card was played with gusto by Pakistan's military dictatorship against Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the jihad and, of course, this happened with full US support.
By the time Bhutto came to power, ties between Pakistan's military and Islamic militants were so entrenched that the whole thing was hard to turn off; it is possible that Bhutto did not support the Taliban as a matter of official policy, but nevertheless, someone in Pakistan was actively supporting the Taliban, providing supplies and weapons, technology and expertise, and even active military support. When the Taliban began their offensive near Spin Boldak, it was with Pakistani artillery support fired from across the border, and ultimately Pakistani military personnel are said to have fought as far inside Afghanistan as regions north of Kabul.
This brings Pakistan to a dilemma. The people of Pakistan have, for over sixty years, been fed a diet of Islamist propaganda to keep Pakistan -- an artificial state -- united against India. Pakistan, for its activity in Jammu and Kashmir, is a state that sponsors terrorism. Pakistan is now at a critical crossroads, and Pakistanis need to make a decision: will they allow their elites to continue to support terrorism, which targets not just India, but which has now reached to Manhattan and the Pentagon, as well as to the Philippines and the Balkans? Or, will Pakistanis put an end to the militancy that is cultivated within Pakistan's borders?
It can be argued that many if not most Germans were peace-loving people, and never intended to allow the Nazis to come to power and start a war that ultimately led to Germany being devastated as the world defended itself. Pakistanis are now in a similar situation; it is a problem not just with India over the Kashmir issue. Many of Pakistan's madrassas are linked to terrorist-training facilities that spread jihad around the world, and perhaps the main things keeping the world from dealing with the issue are that the matter is not high enough on the agendas of most countries, and the fact that the United States labels Pakistan an ally in the "War on Terror". Even Pakistan's nuclear weapons will matter little if the combined forces of India, Russia, some Central Asian and Southeastern European countries -- with a few Southeast Asian and Southwest Pacific nations thrown in for good measure -- are sent in to deal with the sponsorship of jihad at its source.
If the Pakistani people do not break the links between their ruling elites and the militants, this might be Pakistan's future.
FOREIGN SECRETARY CHIMES IN
4. (C) FOREIGN SECRETARY NAJMUDDIN SHAIKH, WHO ALSO ATTENDED THE APRIL 7 LUNCH, SAID NEUTRAL PEACEKEEPERS WOULD BE NECESSARY TO MONITOR AND REINFORCE A TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT. IN THE CURRENT SITUATION, HEKMATYAR AND MASOOD WERE "RECONCILING NOT FOR PEACE, BUT FOR CONFRONTATION WITH THE TALIBAN." A PIPELINE PROJECT, BY CREATING REASONS FOR THE FACTIONS TO COOPERATE WHILE OFFERING SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO THE NATION, WOULD BOTH HELP LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A BROAD-BASED GOVERNMENT AND HELP CREATE CONDITIONS IN WHICH SUCH A GOVERNMENT COULD OPERATE, HE OPINED. IN TERMS OF PAKISTAN'S APPETITE FOR NATURAL GAS, SHAIKH SAID DEMAND WOULD OUTSTRIP SUPPLY, EVEN OVER THE NEXT 30 YEARS. AN EXPECTED 22 PERCENT INCREASE IN PAKISTANI INDUSTRIAL USE OF GAS, PLUS CONVERSION FROM OIL TO GAS, SUGGESTED THAT THERE WOULD BE NO PROBLEMS WITH SURPLUS GAS OUT OF THE 1.4 BILLION CUBIC FEET OF GAS BEING PLANNED FOR DELIVERY VIA AFGHANISTAN. THE PROJECT COULD PROCEED, SHAIKH CONCLUDED, BECAUSE ALL THAT WAS NEEDED WAS THE KABUL GOVERNMENT'S "PASSIVE ACQUIESCENCE," NOT FORMAL APPROVAL -- AND, OF COURSE, THE AGREEMENT OF LOCAL AFGHAN COMMANDERS ALONG THE ROUTE.
This same rationale undoubtedly was part of the thinking behind those who sponsored the Taliban; indeed, Bhutto and Shaikh may have been among the Taliban's sponsors at some point. Regardless, as we saw beginning in the very first post of this series, the Taliban immediately began to deviate from whatever its sponsors had planned for it.
Was Bhutto's government going along with supporting the Taliban at first, then having second thoughts as things developed in an unexpected manner? Or, was Pakistani support for the Taliban indeed under Bhutto's radar?
However it happened, between Bhutto's comments in Paragraph 3 and Shaikh's comments in Paragraph 4, we see the real issue involved; Pakistan supported the Taliban to secure a route through Afghanistan for a supply of Central Asian natural gas, as well as for other trade.
Were Pakistan's Islamist elites, via the Taliban in Afghanistan, intent on spreading jihad to the Central Asian Republics, a dream that seemed within reach beginning with the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets?
GOP WANTS TO WORK WITH US, EU, RUSSIA ON AFGHAN "PRINCIPLES"
5. (C) FOREIGN MINISTER SARDAR ASSEF ALI TOLD SEN. BROWN IN A SEPARATE MEETING APRIL 7 THAT PAKISTAN WANTS TO WORK WITH THE U.S., THE EU, AND RUSSIA TO COME UP WITH A SET OF "PRINCIPLES" TO GOVERN A FUTURE PEACE PLAN FOR AFGHANISTAN. AMPLIFYING ON POINTS IN REFTEL, ASSEF SAID SUCH A SET OF PRINCIPLES -- IF COORDINATED WITH AND SUPPORTED BY THE US, EU, AND RUSSIA -- COULD REENERGIZE THE UN MISSION OF MAHMOOD MESTIRI, WHICH HAS OTHERWISE "RUN OUT OF STEAM." ASSEF ALI HOPED HE AND SA A/S ROBIN RAPHEL COULD BEGIN A DRAFT OF THESE PRINCIPLES ON HER UPCOMING VISIT TO PAKISTAN. HE SAID HE HAD ALREADY DISCUSSED THE PRINCIPLES CONCEPT WITH THE BRITISH, FRENCH, GERMANS, AND RUSSIANS.
GOP NOT AGAINST KABUL GOVERNMENT
6. (C) ASSEF ALI ASKED SEN. BROWN TO CARRY A MESSAGE TO AFGHAN PRESIDENT RABBANI WHEN HE MET HIM APRIL 8. HE ASKED THE SENATOR TO MAKE THE FOLLOWING POINTS:
-- PAKISTAN IS NOT AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF AFGHANISTAN;
-- THE PAKISTANI PEOPLE HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF AFFECTION FOR THE AFGHANS, AND WERE PLEASED TO BE OF ASSISTANCE DURING THE AFGHAN WAR;
-- PAKISTAN HAS NOT DE-RECOGNIZED THE KABUL GOVERNMENT; IT SITS AND WORKS WITH IT REGULARLY IN THE U.N., THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), AND THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO);
-- PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN ARE WELL ON THE WAY TO SOLVING THE DIPLOMATIC PROBLEM CAUSED BY THE ATTACK ON THE PAKISTANI EMBASSY IN KABUL; THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN IS READY FOR A MEETING FOCUSSED ON THESE ISSUES;
-- PAKISTAN DOES NOT INTEND TO BUILD A ROAD OR A PIPELINE THROUGH AFGHANISTAN WITHOUT THE AGREEMENT OF THE KABUL GOVERNMENT;
-- PAKISTAN BELIEVES THERE SHOULD BE A PLACE FOR THE TAJIKS IN ANY FUTURE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT, PARTICULARLY SINCE THE TAJIKS PRESENTLY CONTROL KABUL;
-- PAKISTAN DOES NOT BELIEVE THERE CAN BE A MILITARY SOLUTION IN AFGHANISTAN, OR THAT ANY GROUP OR FACTION CAN WIN -- HENCE PAKISTAN SUPPORTS PROGRESS TOWARD A BROAD-BASED GOVERNMENT IN WHICH ALL GROUPS ARE FAIRLY REPRESENTED.
7. (U) CODEL BROWN HAS APPROVED THIS MESSAGE. CODEL WILSON DEPARTED BEFORE THE MESSAGE WAS PREPARED.
END OF MESSAGE CONFIDENTIAL
In fact, the message may be very contemporary -- if ever there was a place where a military solution seems elusive, Afghanistan is that place.
The question before us, though, is whether infidel and takfir countries -- excluding the United States -- may at some point seek a military solution to their problems in Pakistan. For example, Islamabad's drive for strategic depth against India by supporting the Taliban may provoke the very war it is intended to help Pakistan survive -- war with India, as India, with possible allies, goes after the source of the Kashmiri terrorist problem.