New report says that Pakastan’s ISI supports Afganistan’s insurgents

Summary:  Another example of Anglo-American Imperial literature, this time by an American author at the London School of Economics.  Useful not only for what it says about Afghanistan Taliban and Pakistan’s ISI (their close ties have been known for years), but also for what it says about us.  We have great knowledge, but little self-awareness.  Romans probably wrote such things, complaining about the deceitful, tricky wogs.


  1. The report:  “The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents”, by Matt Waldman
  2. A rebuttal posted by Pro Pakistan – Voice of the Green
  3. About author, Matt Waldman (you should start here)
  4. For more information, giving a deeper view of these events
  5. Afterward, and a contact page

(1)  The report

“The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents”, by Matt Waldman, June 2010.  This is  Discussion Paper #18, published by the Crisis States Research Centre (CSRC) at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.  No copy posted yet at the CSRC.  The Long War Journal and al Jazeera have posted copies.

This is a brilliant and well-researched work, yet myopic and simple-minded.   Waldman finds it odd that a small poor nation like Pakistan would defend its interests via a “double-game”, using “duplicity.”  Why not take a principled and forthright stand, facing the Anglo-American tools of destabilization, assassination, and regime overthrow?  He speaks of “enemies” as if this was a children’s game of good guy – bad guy — not the most useful perspective for a hegemonic power playing the great game on the other side of the world.

This is unsurprising for those who read the author’s bio.  Waldman has much experience in the area (and the 3rd world), but trained as neither an area expert nor social scientist.  He’s an attorney, perhaps unconsciously assuming that these matters take place in a righteous political regime — with western norms (those of the UK and US) as the proper authority.


Many accounts of the Afghan conflict misapprehend the nature of the relationship between Pakistan’s security services and the insurgency. The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with some assistance provided by elements within, or linked to, Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) or military.  Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In their words, this is ‘as clear as the sun in the sky’.

Directly or indirectly the ISI appears to exert significant influence on the strategic decisionmaking and field operations of the Taliban; and has even greater sway over Haqqani insurgents.

  • According to both Taliban and Haqqani commanders, it controls the most violent insurgent units, some of which appear to be based in Pakistan.
  • Insurgent commanders confirmed that the ISI are even represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani command council.
  • Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the Taliban’s strategic autonomy, precluding steps towards talks with the Afghan government through recent arrests.
  • President Zardari himself has apparently assured captive, senior Taliban leaders that they are ‘our people’ and have his backing. He has also apparently authorised their release from prison.
  • The ISI even arrested and then released two Taliban leaders, Qayyum Zakir, the movement’s new military commander, and Mullah Abdul Raouf Khadem, reportedly now head of the Quetta Shura, who are among the three or four highest ranking in the movement below Mullah Omar.

Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke US counter-measures. However, the powerful role of the ISI, and parts of the Pakistani military, suggests that progress against the Afghan insurgency, or towards political engagement, requires their support. The only sure way to secure such cooperation is to address the fundamental causes of Pakistan’s insecurity, especially its latent and enduring conflict with India.

Conclusion  (references omitted; red emphasis added)

The Taliban movement has a strong internal impetus and dynamic. Numerous studies have shown that there are endogenous drivers of the insurgency, and this is confirmed by the interviews.  Taliban and Haqqani fighters are motivated by a range of factors, many of which relate to government predation, corruption or injustice, and the perceived aggression of foreign military forces. Thus, despite the claims of many interviewees, the ISI (and elements of the Pakistani military) may not actually control the Afghan insurgency, which implies power over all major dimensions of the movement and its campaign, and the ability to bring it to an end.

However, as the provider of sanctuary, and very substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence – reinforced by coercion. There is thus a strong case that the ISI and elements of the military are deeply involved in the insurgent campaign, and have powerful influence over the Haqqani network.  This relationship appears to be of a different nature, or at least order of magnitude, than suggested by most studies. However, this assessment has been shared with three experienced Afghan analysts and two senior western security officials, who concur with the principal findings.

  • It means that without a change in Pakistani behaviour it will be difficult if not impossible for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency.
  • It also means that, as one southern commander put it, ‘if the ISI doesn’t support negotiations [with the Afghan government], then they won’t succeed.’
  • Perhaps more significantly, it is hard to see how the international coalition can continue to treat Pakistan as an ally and ‘effective partner’ (US Department of Defense 2010:5).

Only last December President Obama affirmed that ‘we are committed to a partnership that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust.’  Since 2001 America has provided Pakistan with $11.6 billion in security-related assistance and $6 billion in economic aid.  It is due to provide at least $7.5 billion dollars of aid over the next five years. Pakistani officers are even represented on the Tripartite Joint Intelligence Operation Center situated in ISAF Headquarters in Kabul.

American and other western intelligence agencies must be aware of Pakistan’s conduct. The apparent contradiction – backing the enemy’s backer – is perhaps a reflection of America’s preoccupation with the threat it faces from Al Qaeda and associated groups, rather than the Afghan Taliban. It may reflect a reluctance to confront an unstable, nuclear-armed country that faces a serious internal threat from Pakistani Taliban groups. It may also reflect a concern not to jeopardise Pakistani cooperation in preventing terrorist attacks against western targets; or a fear of galvanising extremism among Pakistani immigrant communities.

Nevertheless, Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude. The conflict has led to the deaths of over 1,000 American and 700 other foreign military personnel; thousands of Afghan soldiers, police, officials and civilians; and an unknown number of Afghan, Pakistani and other foreign insurgents. It has already cost America nearly $300 billion, and now costs over $70 billion a year. As a Haqqani commander put it: ‘Of course Pakistan is the main cause of the problems [in Afghanistan] but America is behind Pakistan.’

The Pakistan government’s apparent duplicity – and awareness of it among the American public and political establishment – could have enormous geo-political implications. It could jeopardise American financial support: security-related assistance is conditional on Pakistan’s cooperation on Afghanistan. Moreover, it could trigger punitive counter-measures by the US and its allies, or direct military action against the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory.  However, an aggressive American response to Pakistan’s conduct is only likely to generate further instability, especially given the army’s on-going battle against Pakistani militant groups and widespread anti-American sentiment among the population.

The priority must be to address the fundamental causes of Pakistan’s insecurity, in particular its latent and enduring conflict with India. This requires a regional peace process and, as Bruce Riedel has argued, American backing for moves towards a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It should be accompanied by support for military and political reform, and a combination of incentives and disincentives to persuade Pakistan’s elite that support for Islamic militants is no longer in Pakistan’s national interests.  Even this is no panacea for the Afghan conflict; it merely makes treatment possible. So long as the root causes remain – especially a corrupt, exclusionary, unjust government, and the perception among some Afghans of an aggressive, self-serving foreign military presence – then the violence will continue.

Note the god-like opening his last paragraph (in red).  We’re infidel foreigners, on our way to going broke.  Pakistan has 170 million people.  Belief that we can substatially affect Pakistan’s problems is hubris — the excessive pride that leads to self-destruction.

A rebuttal

Pakistan ISI Backs Taliban: Claims LSE Report by Matt Waldman“, posted by MJK at Pro Pakistan – Voice of the Green, 13 June 2010 — Note that they post a direct link to the report; none of the western news media exhibit such professionalism.  And of course no rebuttals will appear in the western media (they serve to keep us ignorant).

The never ending propaganda against our ISI continues unabated. Today a famous British educational institution London School of Economics has joined the campaign by publishing a report stating that Pakistan ISI has strong links with the Afghan Taliban groups. The report is published by Matt Waldman of Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. By the way Matt is Jew. I wonder why all things get to Jews. Nothing personal here Matt! Am just sharing facts unless you deny it.

Anyways, Matt has just written a research paper quoting anonymous Taliban commanders with approx 100-125 soldiers under their command and yet with first hand knowledge of Quetta Shura and all the inside workings. Matt has further shared what is in public knowledge and open facts. All intelligence agencies keep a contact with all groups in the world and that is something well understandable. Even he accept the fact when he says that Pakistan sabotaged the American effort to reach out to some Taliban commanders to start a reconciliation talks i.e Mullah Baradaar. So when CIA can do it, why not ISI when our country future is at stake here?

Moreover Matt! We are not trusting your anonymous commanders any more. I hope you remember how Judith Miller played her role to convince both US Public and its politicians about Iraq WMD program. At the end it was all lies.  So we will not let you do the same with our country. I can assure you one thing, if it was not for ISI and Pakistan military, you would have to run for your safety in the same manner as you did in Mogadishu. Just to remind you of it, read below few lines

Major General Thomas M. Montgomery, Deputy Commander of the United Nations Forces in Somalia in a television interview said: “Many of the soldiers are alive today because of the willingness and skill of the Pakistani soldiers who worked jointly in a rescue operation with Malaysian and American soldiers in most difficult and dangerous combat circumstances”. He thanked the people and Pakistan Army for sending “such splendid soldiers to Somalia who we feel proud to serve with. Pakistani soldiers have been completely dependable even in the most difficult circumstances. They have shouldered a huge and dangerous load for UNOSOM and the Somali people”.
— The full transcript of the UN report can be found here.

Now coming back to our main topic of Matt Propaganda report, click here to view the full Matt Waldman paid Propaganda report against ISI and Pakistan. The report is titled Sun in the Sky, i wonder if Matt Waldman can differentiate between the Moon and the Sun?

Why is this important to read?

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Chapter 3, #18)

About author, Matt Waldman

These reports are circulated and discussed, usually with no mention about the most important factor:  the author’s background and institutional affiliation.   Here is his bio:

  • Currently Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.
  • Formerly Head of Policy and Advocacy for Oxfam International in Afghanistan, where he has worked for the past two and half years, and is the author of a number of reports on the country.
  • From 2004-2006 he was the Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs and Defence Adviser based in the UK Parliament, with responsibility for formulating party policy on international affairs, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and human rights issues.
  • Matt has also worked as a foreign affairs adviser in the European Parliament, and was deputy director of overseas operations for a UK children’s charity, which included work in post-conflict countries in Eastern Europe and Africa.
  • Prior to this he trained and practised as a lawyer with the London-based, international law firm, Norton Rose, which involved work in Europe and Russia.
  • He holds a Masters Degree in Human Rights from London School of Economics.

For more information, giving a deeper view of these events

Three snippets from the large literature by experts on these matters.  These are not so useful to US political interests as Waldman’s paper — hence no barrage of media attention — but more valuable.

(a)  Valuable introductions

(b)  “Beradar, Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban: What Gives?“, Ashley J. Tellis (see his bio), Carnegie Policy Outlook, March 2010 — Summary:

The recent arrests of several high profile Afghan Taliban leaders by Pakistan have raised expectations that Islamabad’s longstanding support for the “Quetta shura” may at last be waning. The arrests have prompted the view that Pakistan has indeed changed its traditional strategy of protecting the Afghan Taliban leadership. Unfortunately, the realities are less encouraging. A closer look at the recent arrests suggests that:

  • The seizure of Mullah Beradar and some others was prompted by U.S. intelligence initiatives, was entirely fortuitous, and certainly not part of any premeditated detention plan by Pakistan.
  • Although several other arrests have taken place entirely on Pakistani initiative, some of these detentions involve low-level al-Qaeda associates, whose arrests are consistent with Islamabad’s standing policy of aiding the United States.
  • Of the remaining Afghan Taliban leaders arrested independently by Islamabad, many are either not particularly significant or represent a housecleaning by Pakistan’s military intelligence.

As a result, the Afghan Taliban’s leadership in Pakistan is certainly not decimated. Nor do Pakistan’s actions constitute the “sea change” in its behavior, as some observers have argued. Instead, they represent a recalibration of Pakistan’s evolving policy: rather than supporting the declared U.S. goal of defeating the Taliban, the recent arrests exemplify a Pakistani effort to seize control over the process of negotiations and reconciliation that its military leaders believe is both imminent and inevitable in the Afghan conflict. And it is emphatically motivated by the conviction that India, not the Afghan Taliban, is the main enemy to be neutralized in the Afghan endgame.

(c)  “Radicalization by Choice – ISI and the Pakistani Army“, Robert B. Oakley (Fellow in the Institute for National Strategic Studies, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan),  INSS Strategic Forum, October 2009 — Key points:

  • The Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate remain essential for the security and stability of Pakistan. Both organizations have deliberately embraced Islamic radicalism as a means to address the conventional military gap between Pakistan and India.
  • Although there are signs of a shift in Pakistan’s short-term strategic priorities and recognition that the challenge of homegrown Taliban is not just a U.S. problem, India will remain the focal point of Pakistan’s long-term national security.
  • Progress toward reordering Pakistan’s strategic priorities and effecting a fundamental change in its strategic culture is bound to be slow and difficult.
  • Furthermore, it cannot be forced by the United States. The history of relations between Pakistan and the United States is complicated and ambiguous, largely due to Pakistani perceptions of past U.S. abandonment.
  • Any new U.S. strategy for Pakistan has to be considered against realistic expectations, which in turn have to take due account of the longstanding, fundamental nature of the factors that have shaped Pakistani strategic priorities and culture.


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