The leaky cauldron

WikiLeaks, an online whistle-blower, has released the ‘Afghan War Diary’, a set of over 91,000 leaked US military reports from 2004-2009. Some 75,000 reports have been released online while the release of some 15,000 reports has been delayed “as part of a harm minimisation process” as per the demand of their ‘source’. Apart from putting up the documents on its own website, WikiLeaks gave the Afghan war logs to The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel. Though these reports have created a buzz worldwide, there is nothing earth-shatteringly new in them. According to some of the leaked reports, the ISI is helping the Afghan insurgents; there has been an increase in the use of drones by the US-led NATO forces; more than 2,000 civilians have died due to the Taliban’s roadside bombing campaign; the Taliban have access to heat-seeking missiles; humanitarian aid is being pocketed by corrupt Afghan officials, among other things. Now all these revelations may be something new for the American and European public, but they are nothing new for people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The American administration and its military were not unaware of what has been going on in Afghanistan since it invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and ousted the Taliban regime. Thus there has not been any ‘surprise’ in the official US circles. US National Security Advisor General James Jones said that the US “strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information…which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk” but the leaks “will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the leaked reports were not based on facts and “do not reflect the current on-ground realities”. The denials from Pakistan were not unexpected either while the Americans have tried to soften the blow of these accusations against its frontline ally in the war on terror by taking a line that does not deny the ISI’s alleged assistance to the Afghan Taliban but at the same time applauds Pakistan’s efforts in cooperating with the Americans. The Afghans have not shown any surprise either and are of the view that this gives more credibility to what they had been saying over the years about Pakistan’s role in destabilising Afghanistan.

So the real issue here is the ISI and its links with the Afghan Taliban. It has been known for years now that our security establishment’s skewed policies vis-à-vis the Taliban have pushed the country and the region into a quagmire of disaster. General Musharraf played a dual game with the Americans by handing over al Qaeda members while giving protection and rear base areas to the Afghan Taliban. That same policy is continuing under General Kayani, the only difference being that the local Taliban are being hunted down but the Afghan Taliban are being protected for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Now that these documents are out in the open for all to see, voices in the US have already started to emerge and will get louder with each passing day about Pakistan biting the hand that feeds it, in fact chewing it off till the elbow. We cannot overlook the billions of dollars in aid that we have received from the US since 2001. Despite being hit hard by the global recession, the US continued to support Pakistan financially. The outrage in the American media is understandable and soon it will change public opinion to an extent that might lead to US aid being cut off or at the very least being reduced or delayed. Pakistan has to clarify its position beyond a shadow of a doubt if it wants to stay in the US’s good books. It is time that we quit playing games with the security of the world at large and the region in particular in our ‘too clever by half’ mode.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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