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“The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”
Dexter Filkins writes about Pakistan in New Duranty:
ONE SWELTERING AFTERNOON in July, I ventured into the elegant home of a former Pakistani official who recently retired after several years of serving in senior government posts. We sat in his book-lined study. A servant brought us tea and biscuits.
Was it the obsession with India that led the Pakistani military to support the Taliban? I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
Or is it the anti-Americanism and pro-Islamic feelings in the army?
“Yes,” he said, that too.
And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation — one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.
“Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the official told me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”
As an example, he cited the Pakistan Army’s first invasion of the tribal areas — of South Waziristan in 2004. Called Operation Shakai, the offensive was ostensibly aimed at ridding the area of Taliban militants. From an American perspective, the operation was a total failure. The army invaded, fought and then made a deal with one of the militant commanders, Nek Mohammed. The agreement was capped by a dramatic meeting between Mohammed and Safdar Hussein, one of the most senior officers in the Pakistan Army.
“The corps commander was flown in on a helicopter,” the former official said. “They had this big ceremony, and they embraced. They called each other mujahids. ”
“Mujahid” is the Arabic word for “holy warrior.” The ceremony, in fact, was captured on videotape, and the tape has been widely distributed.
“The army agreed to compensate the locals for collateral damage,” the official said. “Where do you think that money went? It went to the Taliban. Who do you think paid the bill? The Americans. This is the way the game works. The Taliban is attacked, but it is never destroyed.
“It’s a game,” the official said, wrapping up our conversation. “The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”