How did a Pakistani double cross lead to Qatar’s entry into the US-Taliban game | The Financial Express

How did a Pakistani double cross lead to Qatar’s entry into the US-Taliban game

“Talib” or students as they are known is basically a Pashtun movement that rose up after the departure of the Soviet troops post the Afghan war. It is widely believed that the Pakistanis using their intelligence services were responsible for the creation of this movement along the tribal lands on the Durand line.

How did a Pakistani double cross lead to Qatar’s entry into the US-Taliban game
Picture Credit – Reuters

By Aadi Achint

Before we begin understanding the Taliban and its “foreign relations” which have swung between Pakistan and Qatar we need to understand how Qatar came into the situation with the Taliban in the first place. A story showcasing Pakistan at its best as always trying to fool the hand that feeds it.

“Talib” or students as they are known is basically a Pashtun movement that rose up after the departure of the Soviet troops post the Afghan war. It is widely believed that the Pakistanis using their intelligence services were responsible for the creation of this movement along the tribal lands on the Durand line. The Taliban initially remained a localised movement up until 1995 when they captured the province of Herat bordering Iran.

This first victory galvanised this movement and it slowly spread the direction of Kabul which it captured exactly one year after Herat. By the year 1998 the Taliban was almost fully in control of Afghanistan apart from the northern regions of the country that had Ahmed Shah Massoud’s forces called the Northern Alliance still holding on.

The Taliban by 1996 were strong enough to depose the incumbent leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, a man who was instrumental in creating the Mujahideen movement against the Soviets. The Afghan society quickly realised that the Taliban was relatively a bit more organised than the predecessor Mujahideen who were involved in corruption, extortion and various other nefarious activities resulting in a heavy negative impact on the Afghan society. Thus, the formation of the first Taliban Government took place in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has a history of military support for different factions within Afghanistan, extending at least as far back as the early 1970s. During the 1980s, Pakistan, which was host to more than two million Afghan refugees, was the most significant front-line state serving as a secure base for the Mujahideen fighting against the Soviet intervention.

Pakistan also served, in the 1980s, as a US stalking horse: the US., through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), granted Pakistan wide discretion in channeling some US$2-3 billion worth of covert assistance to the Mujahideen, training over 80,000 of them. Throughout the war against the communist government and Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan asserted a mix of internal and external concerns.

The ISI and Pakistan army sought leverage against the neighbour on its eastern border, India, by giving Pakistan “strategic depth”-a secure Afghan frontier permitting the concentration of Pakistani forces on the Indian frontier

If you ask the Pakistanis they would vehemently deny their involvement in the creation of Taliban but when one asks the Taliban themselves they would be very clear in mentioning about their days spent in the Madrassas within the boundaries of Pakistan. Places where the current generation of the Taliban would have received his training/education were within these institutions that were created in the tribal lands.

A turning point in the game that Pakistan was trying to play was the events that took place in America during 9/11 which created questions within American society and demands for action against the perpetrators who conducted these horrific attacks.

This marked the beginning of a US led campaign within Afghanistan initially targeted towards Al Qaeda and then towards the Taliban who were not ready to cooperate or give up the individuals as required by the US. The Taliban initially had its leaders who escaped Afghanistan and set up shop in a city called Quetta where a sort of a leadership council emerged known as the Quetta Shura.

Observers interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan and Pakistan have reported that Pakistani aircraft assisted with troop rotations of Taliban forces during combat operations in late 2000 and that senior members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency and army were involved in planning major Taliban military operations.

The U.S. government was sufficiently concerned about the possibility of Pakistani involvement in the capture of the town of Taloqan by the Taliban in September 2000 that it issued a démarche to the Pakistani government in late 2000, asking for assurances that Pakistan had not been involved

The US, being well aware of the Pakistani double games, were looking for a way to circumvent the Pakistanis for their interactions with the Taliban by the late 2000s. There was a significant event that took place with the US army that led to the entry of Qatar into the “great game”.

At that time, a US soldier named Beaudry Bergdahl was taken prisoner by the Taliban, and the Taliban were hoping to exchange him for some of their prisoners in Guantanamo. That’s when Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a deputy commander of the Taliban, offered to hold talks. 

There were supposedly three meetings involving him and representatives from Afghanistan and NATO. He is even said to have met up with Karzai personally at his palace in Kabul, but Karzai later denied this. As soon as the Afghan and US intelligence services paid Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour several hundred thousand dollars, he disappeared never to be seen again.

It turned out that he impersonated Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and was not even a member of the Taliban. He is said to have been a simple (but clever) shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta or according to others, an operative of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI.

I am sure the embarrassment was one of the final straws to break the American trust in Pakistan in regard to its dealing with Pakistan. It was this particular humiliating blunder that sparked the beginning of Qatar’s career as a mediator between the US and the Taliban.

Today when we see the US trying to support Pakistani efforts towards counter terrorism it is a step ahead of being ironical. The question about Pakistan one must ask is what Pakistan has given back in return Jai Hind!

The author is Geopolitics and Strategic Analyst at DEF Talks. You can hear more of his talks and writings at www.thedeftalks.com

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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