29 July 2010

Of course Pakistan entertains the Taliban

WikiLeaks has, you might say, put the cat among the pigeons. One of the more disturbing elements to the powers involved in the Afghan war is the suggestion of a cozy relationship between the Pakistan military and the Taliban. This suggestion is not new of course, but it is a confirmation that is doing a pretty good job of cranking up tensions between the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What surprises me is not that Pakistan is maintaining a rapport with the Taliban but that anybody would expect them not to. After all, back when the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were supporting the Mujaheddin in their insurgency against the Soviet Union, extremist elements were favoured because of their virulent anti-communism. And among these extremists were the future Taliban. That ties were maintained is hardly surprising.

But more to the point, Pakistan has to consider its own interests. We can wreak our havoc in Afghanistan and then go home, like the U.S. did in Vietnam. But Pakistan is at home, it has nowhere else to go. It is stuck with a rather large neighbour along a highly contentious border, and it's going to be stuck with that neighbour for a very long time. If it doesn't want to be facing a hostile government across that border, it has to prepare itself for any winner of the current civil war. And the Taliban might win. Of course, entertaining the Taliban will in turn offend Afghan President Karzai, who might also win, but the odds for the "Mayor of Kabul" don't look too good at the moment.

The rest of us are not amused. Our motives in Afghanistan are so pure, how can Pakistan not surrender itself unequivocally to our goals? Furthermore we, particularly the United States, have given billions to Pakistan and we expect loyalty in return. Haven't we paid full measure for it? Unfortunately, our expectations are simply unrealistic.

The Pakistanis have a lot of balls to juggle. Dealing with the various forces in Afghanistan, managing their own rebellious tribesmen, countering the influence of India in the region, and placating the Americans while keeping in mind the rampant hostility toward the United States among their people. They will juggle these balls to satisfy their own interests, not the Afghans', and certainly not ours. If we don't recognize this, we will set ourselves up for ever more grief.

No comments:

Post a Comment