Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pakistani Government Aid to Militants

A front page article in Thursday's New York Times explores the support that Pakistan's government, specifically the S wing of the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, is still providing to militant groups, including the Taliban, who are conducting attacks in Afghanistan. This support has continued despite repeated requests and high level visits from American and British officials.
These militant connections are partly to counter fears of Indian encirclement, since India has invested heavily in Afghan reconstruction, and most of the Pakistani military still sees India, not the militants, as their main threat and opponent, and Pakistan has a long history of using militants as proxy fighters against India, particularly in Kashmir. This connection fairly clearly led to the bombing of India's embassy in Kabul last summer.
A few key questions remain:
1) How closely was the ISI involved in last November's Mumbai attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba? Was it just intelligence sharing and protection, as Pakistani officials claim, or was the whole thing a proxy attack planned by Pakistani military, or even civilian, leadership?
2) How deep do the connections between ISI and the militants run? Is it largely the work of a "few bad apples" who maintain their ties, or something much bigger?
3) What can the United States/coalition do to entice Pakistan to renounce support for these groups and leaders? Certainly just sending the Predator drones into Quetta and elsewhere in Baluchistan is possible (and being debated--watch for news of expanded strikes in the next few weeks), but is it worth the cost?

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