By Andrew E. Harrod:
“Why are the Americans fighting us here,” British journalist Carlotta Gall recounted Afghans asking, “when the real cause of the problem is across the border” in Pakistan. Gall discussed this vital question examined in her newly published book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, during an April 11, 2014, Hudson Institute panel.
The infrastructure “that kept the insurgency going all these years” during the United States’ long, post-September 11, 2001, war in Afghanistan was in Pakistan, Gall observed on the basis of years reporting there. “What Pakistan is doing is costing lives” in “trying to play both sides” of Afghanistan’s war, even as periodic falling outs between Pakistani security forces and Afghan militant groups claim Pakistani casualties. Thus American-led military operations in Afghanistan merely “targeted the symptoms of the disease.”
Symptomatic of Pakistani support for jihadist groups in Afghanistan and elsewhere was the “normal, if secretive life” of Osama bin Laden for many years in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was “managing” bin Laden, Gall concluded on the basis of her knowledge of ISI operations. In particular, bin Laden’s compound had no escape route outside of the front entrance in what Gall’s fellow panelist, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, described as a “primarily garrison town.” This suggested to American officials and others that bin Laden expected warning in case of attack, such that the eventual American killing of bin Laden took place without Pakistani foreknowledge. Pakistan “did not want to be the traitor” in the eyes of some Muslims by giving up bin Laden to the United States, Gall argued.
Long before the Americans, Gall contrasted, Pakistani journalists could have found bin Laden in Abbottabad. “Pakistani journalists know a lot more than they are writing,” yet, as opposed to Afghan journalists, have well-founded fears of government detention, torture, or worse. “Stop writing what you are writing,” is often the Pakistani government message to journalists. Pakistani families who talked to Gall about abrupt phone calls informing that a missing son had become a shahid or martyr in an Afghan suicide bombing also received subsequent ISI visits.
“Know your enemy” is the “first key thing” in any conflict, Gall observed, yet the United States failed properly to analyze Pakistan before becoming involved in Afghanistan. “Why don’t they know them better,” Gall particularly wondered with respect to American ignorance of ISI. Ironically, a CIA official had suggested to Gall that close CIA-ISI cooperation in years past had actually precluded American spying on the ISI.
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