Claiming that Pakistan has already arrested several top commanders of the Afghan Taliban, including Mulla Omar’s second-in-command Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar, the US Defence Department has regretted that Islamabad has not yet handed them over to Afghanistan despite hectic discussions over the issue.
This disclosure has been made by the Pentagon on page 33 of its biannual evaluation report  of the progress in the war against terrorism, titled, “Department of Defence Report on Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan”, which was released on Friday. The western media had earlier reported in February 2010 that the Pakistani authorities have captured ten of the 18-member Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) from Quetta and Karachi, including Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar, following the holding of the January 28, 2010 London moot on Afghanistan, in an apparent bid by the Pakistani military establishment to lock the stable doors and save the valued Taliban studs from being stolen by the Americans. But Islamabad had denied these reports.
The Pentagon report admitted that the successful military raid by US Navy SEALs on the bin Laden compound in May 2011 has led to a further deterioration of the Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation [in the war against terror]. Some of the strongest language in the report is focused on the alleged safe havens of Taliban militants in Pakistan, labeling them the insurgency’s greatest enabler. The 138-page report attempts to cover all aspects of the Afghan war, saying the Taliban militia is weakened but the ability of insurgents to hide across the border in Pakistan remains the greatest threat to a military success in Afghanistan. Only last week that a BBC documentary titled ‘Secret Pakistan,’ claimed that a number of middle-ranking Taliban commanders have claimed that the Inter Services Intelligence provides weapons and training to the Taliban fighting US and British troops in Afghanistan.
“The insurgency’s safe havens in Pakistan, as well as the limited capacity of the Afghan government remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable and stable Afghanistan”, says the Pentagon report which comes at a time when the American support for the decade-long war against terrorism is at an all-time low. According to the results of an international opinion poll conducted by the CNN and released on October 28, only 34% of the US public supports the war in Afghanistan, one point less than the previous low of 35%, with 63% opposed to the conflict.
The Pentagon report, which comes at a time when the US has already begun pulling forces from Afghanistan, outlines the state of the insurgency and the ISAF’s efforts to establish security in Afghanistan. The time period covered in the document includes high-profile terror attacks in Afghanistan including the September 2011 attacks on the US Embassy and Nato headquarters in Kabul. The report describes these attacks as a fresh demonstration of the “insurgent determination” to target the capital region of Kabul. It points directly at Pakistani authorities for aiding the strength of insurgents on that side of the border. “Pakistan’s selective counterinsurgency operations, passive acceptance and provision of insurgent safe havens continue to undermine security in Afghanistan and threaten International Security Assistance Force’s campaign,” the report says.
The Pentagon report states that Pakistan’s safe havens remain the number one problem in establishing security. “Safe havens [of the Taliban] in Pakistan, which directly support insurgent operations in Afghanistan, have grown more virulent during the reporting period, and represent the most significant risk to ISAF’s campaign. The majority of insurgent fighters and commanders operate in or near their home districts, and low-level insurgent fighters are often well integrated into the local population. Out-of-area fighters comprise a relatively small portion of the insurgency; typically a source of technical expertise, these fighters tend to be more ideological in nature and less tolerant of local norms”.
The Pentagon report notes that senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban remain capable of providing strategic guidance to the broader insurgency and channelling resources to support their operational priorities. “Pakistan-based senior [Taliban] leaders exercise varying degrees of command and control over generally decentralized and local Afghan insurgency. Although Pakistan supports the Haqqani network, ISAF seeks to work with Pakistan to contain the Haqqani network and the Taliban’s activities. Despite progress in limiting the effects of cross-border terrorist attacks, high-profile attacks executed in Afghanistan in recent weeks were directly attributable to insurgents within Pakistan. A series of terror attacks were carried out by the Haqqani network and directly enabled by Pakistani safe haven and support”.
The Pentagon report then concedes that addressing insurgents emanating from Pakistan is critical to the success of ISAF’s campaign, which will continue to assist Pakistan in denying the Taliban and Haqqani network safe haven from which they can plan and conduct attacks against ISAF. Despite the death of bin Laden, the Pentagon report states, Taliban’s relationship to al-Qaeda continues. “Though the personal relationship between Mulla Omar and Osama bin Laden represented one of the most important and influential links between the two groups, al-Qaeda leadership continues to view the Taliban and the conflict in Afghanistan as integral to the group’s continued relevance and viability. However, al-Qaeda’s most significant enabler in Afghanistan remains the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which will leverage this relationship as they continue to seek relevance in Afghanistan”, the Pentagon report concludes.