Our Deceitful 'Friends'
Khalilzad, Zalmay, Newsweek
Byline: Zalmay Khalilzad; Khalilzad is a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
Pakistan helps the Taliban. We need to rethink who the enemy is.
Ten years since the launch of combat operations in Afghanistan, the United States is at a critical juncture. On the positive side, Al Qaeda sanctuaries in the country have been destroyed and the democratic government continues to cooperate--albeit unevenly--with the international community to deal with all the security, economic, and human-rights challenges Kabul faces.
Yet victory over the Taliban and its affiliates is still not imminent. The insurgency persists, derailing a political settlement and jeopardizing the progress we have made. In response to the U.S. military surge into the heart of the Taliban's strongholds, the enemy has adapted with a string of high-profile assassinations targeted at senior Afghan officials--most recently Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was in charge of peace talks.
There are a number of reasons that the insurgency has gained steam over the past five years. Errors by the U.S. and Afghan governments are partly to blame. Civilian casualties, flagging reconstruction efforts, widespread official corruption, and the Afghan government's weakness in enforcing the rule of law have left a good deal of the population disillusioned.
But there is a more important factor: Pakistani aid and support for the insurgency across its border.
The Obama administration took an aggressive approach from the outset; it recognized the importance of Islamabad in the Afghanistan equation, seeing the conflict as part of a web of "AfPak" issues. And unilateral operations like the Navy SEALs' killing of Osama bin Laden, but also drone strikes and the like in Pakistan, have netted key terrorists and disrupted insurgent sanctuaries. Yet even this new offensive has not created the absolutely necessary break between Pakistan's military and intelligence services and the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Worse still, no one knows Islamabad's true intentions. In talks with U.S. and Afghan officials, the Pakistanis offer up implausible denials of the government's complicity in the insurgency. …