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Rashid: U.S. aid to Pakistan is “utter and sheer stupidity”

JOHN MOORE/Getty Images Delivering the keynote address at Wednesday’s Jamestown Foundation conference on al Qaeda, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid expressed dismay that U.S. support for Pakistan has allowed the Taliban to regain a foothold in the Afghan border regions: The Taliban were never defeated in 2001. They were routed and they came into Pakistan and ...

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JOHN MOORE/Getty Images

Delivering the keynote address at Wednesday’s Jamestown Foundation conference on al Qaeda, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid expressed dismay that U.S. support for Pakistan has allowed the Taliban to regain a foothold in the Afghan border regions:

The Taliban were never defeated in 2001. They were routed and they came into Pakistan and regrouped in exactly the same place where they had set off to conquer Afghanistan in 1994.  

According to Rashid, efforts to control the Taliban’s resurgence in southern Afghanistan are hopeless without addressing the areas of Baluchistan and the Northwest Territories that are largely controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, a faction whose leaders are “far more ideological” than those in Afghanistan. Given that Pakistani intelligence and military forces have abetted these groups in many cases, simply providing more military aid to the Musharraf regime will probably not do the trick, he said. Rashid was particularly critical of a U.S. plan to supply equipment and training to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps:

The Americans are saying now that they want to arm the Frontier Corps against al Qaeda and spend $350 million giving this Corps—[which] is made up of frontier tribesmen—helicopters and heavy artillery… With all due respect, if the American idea is to throw money at the problem and it will go away, this seems to be a prime example of utter and sheer stupidity and a complete blindness to the reality of the situation. 

Who are the Frontier Corps? These are tribal paramilitary units who have been on the side of the Taliban since the 1980s… They were used by the ISI to lead the Taliban’s offensive against the Northern Alliance. The reason there are so many desertions and they’re so demoralized now is that the Frontier Corps are very confused. [They’ve] been trained for the last 25 years to do covert jihadi work by the Pakistan government and now the Pakistan army is saying, “No, you’re supposed to be killing the jihadis!”

In Rashid’s view, despite the trendy characterization of al Qaeda as a decentralized, transnational network, the capture of territory remains a priority for the jihadis who need “liberated areas” for training and recruitment. The chaos on the border that Pakistan has allowed to develop has provided them with just that.

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