By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift Posted Dec. 28, 2014 @ 6:57 pm
WASHINGTON — As a recent episode of the popular television series “Homeland” displayed, elements in Pakistan, including its intelligence service, may be in league with the Taliban, which means the friend of our enemy is our friend. And the fact that Osama bin Laden was found residing in an armed compound in Abbottabad, a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy, gives credence to the suspicion that our friend has been the enemy’s friend for quite a while.
In fact, Pakistan’s friendships have not changed. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and placed a puppet in charge, its forces were confronted by mujahedeen rebels, primarily supported by Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and the United States. Eventually, U.S. support became dominant when President Ronald Reagan vowed to make Afghanistan the Soviet’s Vietnam. By that he referred to the Soviet use of a surrogate, North Vietnam, to wage war against South Vietnam. A safe haven being the key to surrogacy, Soviet ships bearing supplies and munitions anchored in North Vietnamese waters, signaling a U.S. invasion of the North would involve the Soviet Union. Hence, North Vietnam became the safe haven for the North Vietnamese Army.
In like manner, Pakistan, a nuclear power and U.S. ally, became the safe haven for the mujahedeen, Osama bin Laden among them. And as would be expected in a safe haven surrogate war, the surrogates prevailed. After nine years of fighting, Soviet forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan. Then, in 1992, the Soviet puppet regime of Mohammad Najibullah fell to the mujahedeen, and in 1996 the Taliban branch of the mujahedeen, with the aid of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, prevailed in the Afghan civil war.
Pakistan remained the common thread, protecting and supplying the hardliners, and as hardline as the fanatical Taliban was, al-Qaida was worse, and the Taliban was providing that group with sanctuaries where they trained Islamic militants to export terror, all of which led to the Osama bin Laden-directed al-Qaida attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. responded with aerial and covert support of the Afghan Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban and hound Taliban and al-Qaida fighters out of the country. Most of them slipped across the border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, the U.S. found itself in league with its longtime adversary, Iran, the other nation then supporting the Northern Alliance.
While the U.S. has switched sides from the mujahedeen to the Northern Alliance and the U.S.-allied Afghan government, Pakistan has remained the constant supporter of the Islamic fundamentalists who made up the mujahedeen, including the Taliban, though apparently not al-Qaida.
Now all that may have changed. Just as the Taliban appeared to be on the brink of success in Afghanistan as U.S. forces are rapidly withdrawing, a Taliban attack on a Pakistani school resulted in the slaughter of 149 students and teachers. Pakistan’s army swung into action and began hunting down the perpetrators. The heinous crime delivered a gruesome reminder of who and what the Taliban are, and maybe, just maybe, Pakistan will finally realize it has been supporting a rogue organization that they must now thwart.