August 28, 2021

Cowboys & Pakistanis: The CIA And ISI Own The Mess In Afghanistan

The CIA and ISI played a game of cops and robbers in Afghanistan for 20 years. In the end, they both won.

The American exit from Afghanistan, surrendering the country to Taliban rule, was an unnecessary error, just like the invasion in 2001. 

Washington could have gotten out without sabotaging its ally and empowering the Taliban. There was no pressing political or military need to sidestep the Afghan government while bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table without forcing it to offer major concessions.

Leaving aside the one-sided deal, the withdrawal couldn't have gone any worse. Running away in the middle of the night without notifying Afghan allies, closing bases that could've served as evacuation sites, and leaving behind billions of dollars in weapons for the Taliban and its Pakistani patron could have all been avoided with simple planning and a basic respect for the Afghan nation.

NATO, escaping Afghanistan in the matter that it did, has brought further chaos and uncertainty to the country. It has made the Taliban much more powerful than they have any right to be.  

It is easy to blame President Biden for the aftermath of the withdrawal, or his ignorant predecessor who signed the surrender deal solely to score political points with his delusional base. But any kind of finger pointing that does not identify the real agents of Afghanistan's destruction and subjugation shifts blame to where it doesn't belong.

The CIA and their counterparts in Pakistan's ISI engineered the Taliban dictatorship in Afghanistan. Over the years, starting in the late 1970s, the CIA allowed the ISI to grow powerful in Afghanistan at the expense of local independent leaders. They deserve to be blamed and punished.

The Taliban are not an Almighty force. Behind their public image as the pious army of Muhammad, the Taliban are simple little toy soldiers who can be wound up or down by their arrogant masters in Pakistan depending on their needs and wants.

An excerpt from, "Taliban - How a Monster Was Born" by Amit Bansal, August 25, 2021:

With the unending supply of Arms, Ammunition, war machines and logistics from Pakistan ISI, they could take over entire Afghanistan twice- First in 1994-96 and then in 2021. Pakistan ISI has been helping them directly too. There have been several instances where serving Pakistan Army personal were fighting as part of Taliban contingents.

Understanding why American officials failed to confront Pakistan about its support for the Taliban has perplexed many observers of the Afghanistan war. 

One reason given is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. 

Washington can live with the Taliban in Afghanistan if it means avoiding war against Pakistan. 

That's understandable. War is very rarely a solution. But the truth is that simply cutting off U.S. aid to Pakistan could force it to rethink its destructive strategy in Afghanistan

Without nukes Pakistan is a third-rate power. It does not have the economy to sustain endless support for the Taliban. 

By not punishing Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorism in Afghanistan America and the West are sending the message that Afghanistan doesn't matter all that much. The new Taliban regime represents nothing more than a simple inconvenience for them.

It is important to remember that the CIA, which has guided American policy in Afghanistan for decades, sought an alliance with the Taliban prior to the September 11 attacks. 

The Taliban were viewed as security police for gas and oil companies, and they still are today. The CIA and ISI were instrumental in their capture of Kabul in 1996, and their relationship obviously didn't end in 2001 with their departure from power. 

For a brief time after the invasion the U.S. pretended to chase the Taliban into the mountains and border towns, but like any bought off cop they knew when to stop chasing. And like good robbers, the Taliban and ISI knew where to hide.

An excerpt from, "The US’s Greatest Strategic Failure”: Steve Coll on the CIA and the ISI" by Ann Wilkens, Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 23, 2018:

"In his conclusion, Coll  states: “America failed to achieve its aims in Afghanistan for many reasons: underinvestment in development and security immediately after the Taliban’s fall; the drains on resources and the provocations caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; corruption fed by N.A.T.O. contracting and C.I.A. deal making with strongmen; and military hubris at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Yet the failure to solve the riddle of the I.S.I. and to stop its covert interference in Afghanistan became, ultimately, the greatest strategic failure of the American war.” (p. 667)

The consequences of not attacking Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and not punishing Pakistan have been enormous.

Just as Iran won the Iraq war, Pakistan won the Afghanistan war.