Sat, May 07, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Bin Laden and the unfolding Afghan endgame

By Shahid Javed Burki

What is known is that bin Laden’s demise came at a moment when relations between the CIA and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency, had sunk to an all-time low. Senior leaders from both sides sought to save the relationship from total rupture. ISI head Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, took a day trip to Washington where he spent four hours meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta. chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, then went to Islamabad, where he met the commander of the Pakistani army for several hours. Later, on a visit to Afghanistan, Mullen expressed frustration with the ISI, and it is now clear that he already knew when he met the Pakistanis that an attack on was suspected as being bin laden’s compound was imminent.

Pakistanis fear that, with the US planning to exit, Afghanistan will become their problem. One way to ensure that a friendly regime holds sway in Kabul after the US withdrawal would be to introduce into the governing structure a group with close ties to Pakistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, the group of fighters led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the mujahidin leaders who fought to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, could serve that purpose.

Two decades ago, Haqqani and several other warlords were funded and trained by Pakistan and the US working together. The Haqqani group has maintained good relations with ISI.

However, this situation is complicated by the fact that the Haqqanis are operating out of North Waziristan, one of the tribal agencies located in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is fiercely opposed to the presence of US and NATO troops in their country.

There is a chance that, following bin Laden’s death, the Haqqani group could now become more willing to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government. That would satisfy both the US and Pakistan.

Shahid Javed Burki, former finance minister of Pakistan and vice president of the World Bank, is currently chairman of the Institute of Public Policy in Lahore, Pakistan.

COPYRIGHT: PROJECT SYNDICATE

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