The India Cables

Pakistan backed militants to avoid being targeted?

“Pakistani officials think that if militant groups were not attacking in Afghanistan, they would seek out Pakistani targets.” That was part of a briefing on Afghanistan that U.S. National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for South Asia Dr. Peter Lavoy gave Permanent Representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on November 25, 2008. The briefing was to become famous for a much-reported statement by Dr. Lavoy: “… Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world.”

However, other vital things, which have been less recognised, came up at the meeting. These included a suggestion from Dr. Lavoy that pressure be generated to make the Taliban act at their worst. “The international community should put intense pressure on the Taliban in 2009 in order to bring out their more violent and ideologically radical tendencies. This will alienate the population and give us an opportunity to separate the Taliban from the population.”

A cable dated December 5, 2008 ( > 181529: secret/noforn) from the U.S. NATO Mission recorded two other reasons that Dr. Lavoy put forward for Pakistan's support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. “First, Pakistan believes the Taliban will prevail in the long term, at least in the Pashtun belt most proximate to the Pakistani border. Second, Pakistan continues to define India as its number one threat, and insists that India plays an over-active role in Afghanistan.” Dr. Lavoy also said: “Although Pakistan now identifies both al-Qaida and the Taliban as existential threats,” their “government institutions still support the Taliban” in key ways. That includes the ISI providing “intelligence and financial support to insurgent groups... to conduct attacks in Afghanistan against Afghan government, ISAF, and Indian targets.”

“Urging militant groups to be outwardly focused, he said, is perceived by Pakistani officials as a method to safeguard internal security. In addition, Pakistan has (probably correctly) assessed that it is only capable of targeting several groups at a time, which leads to a policy of appeasement of other groups in the meantime.”

Dr. Lavoy described FATA as “the command and control center for al-Qaida worldwide…” Yet, “Despite al-Qaida's presence in the FATA, he continued, it plays a surprisingly insignificant role in Afghanistan, where the numbers of foreign fighters remain relatively low.”

The cable noted Dr. Lavoy as saying further: “Indian diplomats and politicians showed restraint in public statements” even after the July bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul which killed 40 people. According to Dr. Lavoy's briefing, “they seemed to realize that India's past tactic of using military pressure to influence Pakistani government to reign [rein] in militants may no longer work, especially if insurgent groups are operating against or independently of ISI. Despite this positive political development, Lavoy said India could do more to assuage what one PermRep called ‘Pakistani paranoia'.”

Several Permanent Representatives “noted that ‘the feel-good factor of the briefing was pretty low,' and the report was ‘chilling' and ‘unrelentingly gloomy'.” Despite this, they “appeared to agree with his assessment that Afghanistan is ‘winnable,' especially if NATO took several immediate concrete steps to improve the situation.”


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