Blindly bashing Pakistan won’t help Afghanistan or worst the Taliban

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 14, 2015
The situation in Kunduz

The situation in Kunduz

This Washington Post piece by Fareed Zakaria is really quite remarkable. As a blind bit of Pakistan-bashing, that is.

You could click on the link above to read it in full, but if you don’t, here, in one sentence, is Mr Zakaria’s argument:

Though unpopular, the Taliban always come back because they have a haven in Pakistan.

Think about it. Can that be true? That a safe haven allows an unpopular group to repeatedly return to take control? Especially when the country it seeks to control has a democratically elected government?

No. What a safe haven does is make it harder to cut off the head of the snake, drain the swamp or whatever other metaphor you prefer for the act of destroying a vicious force.

That said, Mr Zakaria is absolutely right that two Taliban leaders and the late Osama bin Laden live or have lived in Pakistan.

The current Taliban leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, lives in Pakistan (in Islamabad, not Quetta as Mr Zakaria writes. I’m going by former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh’s October 8 interview to the BBC. Click here to hear the clip.)

Mr Mansour’s predecessor, Mohammad Omar, died in Karachi. Bin Laden was in Abbottabad.

That constitutes safe haven, yes, but that doesn’t automatically mean anything.

The biggest problem faced by Afghanistan when it comes to dealing with the Taliban is its own inadequacies. It lacks good governance, which is, in the end, the surest antidote to insurgency and extremism.

This is not to deny the truth of Mr Zakaria’s lament that “Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes.”

Or, as he rather passionately puts it, “Pakistan is a time bomb.” He goes on to write, “It has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and the most opaque. It maintains close ties with some of the world’s most brutal terrorists. By some estimates, its military consumes 26 percent of all tax receipts, while the country has 5.5 million children who don’t attend school . As long as this military and its mind-set are unchecked and unreformed, the United States will face a strategic collapse as it withdraws its forces from the region.”

Yes. But even so, the Taliban’s main strengths lie in the Afghan government’s weakness.