Friday, 26 September 2008
Amrullah Saleh, the thirty-six-year-old director of Karzai’s spy agency, known as NDS, became the world’s youngest intelligence chief in 2004, at age 32. Since 2005, NDS has emerged as a major source of strategic instability in the region
He is young, bold, and methodical, often delivering his arguments in bullet-form even in an informal chat. According to one account, he went from earning $400 a month working for an NGO in Pakistan to making $6,000 working as a liaison officer for CIA with Northern Alliance. This is not the official version of course. His American patrons describe this assignment in a less dramatic way as “an informal ambassador and coordinator of non-governmental organizations with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance.” This is how U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers introduced him during a reception three years ago.
This is Amrullah Saleh, the thirty-six-year-old director of Karzai’s spy agency, known as NDS, who probably became the world’s youngest intelligence chief in 2004, at age 32.
Mr. Saleh is also a central figure in the undeclared, low-intensity war against Pakistan, although he is more of a good executioner than an original thinker. Since 2005, NDS has emerged as a major source of strategic instability in the region. Armed with what appears to be an American nod that goes as far back as 2002, and with direct help from fourteen Indian intelligence outposts on Afghan soil, the NDS has facilitated the launch of a covert operation that has successfully created multiple insurgencies across Pakistan’s western belt – from Gwadar to Swat – in less than three years.
Pakistan stands accused of attacks in both Afghanistan and India. The Americans have gone as far as blaming Pakistan, in advance, for all future attacks against United States. In fact, in a calculated leak, The New York Times on Sept. 11 accused Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani of complicity in the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, something that even the Indians didn’t dare do. And on Sept. 7, President Bush delivered a speech at the National Defense University in Washington where he almost called Pakistan a terrorist state.
The ground reality, however, is a little different. The frequency and intensity of attacks inside Pakistan over the past two years have exceeded the number of attacks the U.S. military faces in Afghanistan. This is strange because if the U.S. accusations that Islamabad is behind Afghan Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan are correct, then why is the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ attacking the Pakistani State and people? The so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’ should be happy that Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Taliban? But what is happening is the opposite. It is more like the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ is punishing Pakistan. The question is: Who benefits?
According to one Pakistani official source, close to 8,000 foreigners have infiltrated Pakistani territories over the past two to three years. The figure was under 1,000 before 9/11, and most of them were peaceful leftovers from the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s, grownup, aging, with local wives and children. Yes, Pakistan did have a domestic religious extremism problem but it consisted of small groups and not armies with endless supply of money and sophisticated weapons and, apparently, advance knowledge of Pakistani military movements.
There is a pile of evidence with Pakistani security officials that leaves no doubt that many of these 8,000 foreigners are operatives of foreign intelligence agencies who have infiltrated the Pakistani tribal belt from Afghanistan. This is not a Hollywood script. During the 2001 war against the Taliban government in Kabul, U.S. military used special ops teams made up of Pashtun look-alikes complete with perfect Pashtun accents, assisted by bought local help in the areas of their deployment.
In Pakistani tribal belt, the numbers of foreigners dramatically increased in the years 2002 to 2004. These foreigners used the natural local anger at Pakistan’s alliance with U.S. to work up the locals against Islamabad. The area remained quiet for most of the time after the 2001 war until it finally erupted in insurgency led by a series of shady ‘rebel Mullahs’ who caught the Pakistani government and military by surprise.
Karzai’s security and intelligence network is populated with viciously anti-Pakistan officers. Under U.S. patronage, the Indians are suspected of having raised the strength of their soldiers in Afghanistan to around ten thousand, mostly under the guise of security for Indian construction projects. Indians and Karzai’s men are directly involved in training, arming and financing rebels and insurgents and sending them into Pakistan. There is a full backing for an ethnic insurgency in southwestern Pakistan where China is building a strategic seaport.
Pakistanis don’t have evidence that shows direct U.S. involvement in this anti-Pakistan campaign. But the circumstantial evidence is more than overwhelming. Afghanistan could not have turned into a staging ground for anti-Pakistan covert operations involving several players without Washington’s nod. U.S. military has also been deliberately attacking those militant tribals inside Pakistan who are pro-Islamabad and sparing those who exclusively fight Pakistani military. Also, U.S. government has refused to designate the ethnic insurgency in southwestern Pakistan as terrorism. One very interesting piece of information that points the fingers to both India and U.S. is that these shady ‘Pakistani Taliban’ have focused their efforts in the past four years on attacking Chinese citizens and Chinese interests inside Pakistan. No U.S. or NATO citizens have ever been attacked.
The Afghan Taliban –who are the real Taliban before this foreign-orchestrated insurgency in Pakistani border areas hijacked the word ‘Taliban’ – have never attacked Pakistan despite Islamabad’s policy change after 9/11. In fact, senior Taliban officials, like its ambassador to Islamabad Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, never said anything against Pakistan despite having been captured and handed over to the Americans by Islamabad.
The only way out for Islamabad now is to leave the U.S.-led coalition that occupied Afghanistan in 2001.
Pakistan will continue to face instability as long as it continues to be part of the war on terror on Washington’s terms. Pakistan’s legitimate security interests have been so damaged and ignored by Washington that it is time to tell the Americans to go and deal with Afghanistan on their own. Pakistan can say that it will help Washington where possible but that it can no longer remain part of the coalition, a coalition that only includes three nations now: U.S., U.K., and Pakistan. In this regard, Pakistanis can renegotiate the terms of letting U.S. use Pakistani soil and airspace for the transport of supplies. Pakistan can ask U.S. military to vacate the remaining Pakistani airbase under American use. Also, Islamabad can revoke the permission that former President Musharraf granted CIA to establish outposts in Pakistan’s tribal belt and the permission to recruit local assets. Meanwhile, Pakistan can continue eliminating the shady foreign and local criminals who call themselves ‘Pakistani Taliban’. This is what the Pakistani military has been doing recently, wiping off all these foreign assets. Which probably explains some of the recent American panic.
‘Insurgency,’ Mr. Saleh, the Afghan spymaster, told American journalists in 2006, ‘is like grass. Two ways to destroy it: You cut the upper part, and after four months, you have it back. You poison the soil where that grass is, then you eliminate it forever.’
What Mr. Saleh got wrong is the soil. It is not Pakistan. The Afghan insurgency is sustained by Afghans. It is an Afghan problem. Please leave Pakistan alone. Ahmed Quraish