Killing ourselves in Afghanistan

On a recent bitterly cold winter day, I sat huddled on a red Persian carpet in an unheated Kabul office, waiting for a visitor who, I was told by a trusted friend, would help me understand why America is not winning its war in Afghanistan. Our meeting was conducted in secrecy. My guest was, until early 2007, a Taliban commander of 50 fighters in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

For at least two and a half years, and perhaps far longer, the Pakistani government has been receiving massive U.S. aid while its intelligence agency and elements of its military have been pursuing their own anti-American agenda within Afghanistan. The U.S. has given the Musharraf regime $10 billion since Sept. 11, 2001, but Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and factions within the Pakistan army, while helping the U.S. track al-Qaida with one hand, have been aiding the Taliban with the other. In part because of Pakistani help, the Taliban have made a steady comeback and American and Afghan casualties are at their highest annual levels since the war began. Coalition casualties increased more than 20 percent last year.

Islamabad has denied complicity and Washington has maintained official silence, but the double-dealing is not surprising. It's just the continuation of the Pakistani government's former alliance with the Taliban, which was itself an outgrowth of a decades-old Pakistani policy of trying to exert control over the internal affairs of its chaotic neighbor. [The former Taliban commander] said the ISI had helped train and arm him to fight inside Afghanistan against U.S. and international coalition forces since 2002.

Interviews with Afghan and U.S. intelligence officials involved in covert U.S. operations along the border suggest that U.S. intelligence operatives have known since 2005 that the Pakistan army and the ISI have been training and arming insurgents in the Tribal Areas who cross into Afghanistan to kill Afghan, U.S. and coalition forces. "Our guys are getting killed because Pakistan has a double policy," said an American policy advisor who travels frequently to U.S military and CIA bases near the border.

[Excerpt of article by Matthew Cole, Salon.com]

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