ISI provided the Taliban training, funding and supplies in the border areas of Pakistan adjoining Afghanistan, for the last 20 years.


New Delhi: With the capture of Kabul by the Taliban insurgents this week, there was only one country on the planet which was openly celebrating this episode, Pakistan and its civil-military institutions. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran khan was quoted as saying, “Taliban had broken the shackles of slavery in Afghanistan” and his special assistant Raoof Hasan claimed on twitter that, “Afghanistan is presently witnessing a virtually smooth shifting of power from the corrupt Ghani government to the Taliban.” This all shows how the Pakistani establishment and its civil-military leadership are responsible for the instability in Afghanistan. Many scholarly papers and think-tanks have extensively written that it is the border areas of Pakistan adjoining the Afghanistan, like Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan, where the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external security agency, provided training, funding, munitions, and supplies to the Taliban terrorists who were down and out after the United States invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11.

The Sunday Guardian tried to trace the chronology of all this and why is it that a temporary incursion of the Taliban—which had been considered a menace for the Afghan population, the rule-based world order and humanity in general by the world—had been celebrated by the Pakistani state and from where and how the Taliban terrorists got safe havens, funding and supplies. In his widely discussed paper, titled, “The Sun in the sky: The Relationship Between Pakistani ISI and Afghan insurgents,” Matt Waldman, a noted international relations expert, wrote, “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 decision-making 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,” his paper reads.

“The two provinces of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan bordering Afghanistan, were used by its deep state and the ISI to safely keep the Taliban leaders after 9/11 for a few years; afterwards, they provided logistics and training to start their insurgency once again around 2007,” said a government official based in New Delhi, who is closing following the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. “Leaders of Taliban were provided high security to escape any US drone strike or assassination attempt. What we are seeing now is not the Taliban’s invasion in Afghanistan, but a Pakistani proxy military invasion,” he added.

One of the most highly regarded scholars on the functioning of the Pakistani military and South Asian, C. Christine Fair, recently wrote, “Without Pakistan’s intelligence and military establishment’s unstinting support for the Taliban, the group would be a nuisance rather than an effective fighting force.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had time and again reiterated that it is Pakistan which has been providing safe havens and other facilities to the Taliban to keep Afghanistan disturbed. This policy of the Pakistani military-ISI complex is known as “strategic depth”. In the recent episode, it looks like the Rawalpindi military elite had tasted some success, but for a country which is disturbed since the last 40 years, this policy of the Pakistani military-ISI complex will again start a civil war and unsettle the region.