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June 1, 2016

Pakistan playing a ‘double game’ in Afghanistan: US ex-spymaster


June 1, 2016

Accusing Islamabad of playing a “double game” in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban and then pretending to endorse Washington DC’s policies in the region at the same time, former Director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, General Michael Flynn, has said that he was more concerned about Pakistan collapsing due to the instability caused by the militant factions in the war-torn mountainous country, observing America would have a significant problem at hand if that happened.

Expressing his views in the May 28 Al-Jazeera Television programme “Arena,” which had brought him and former ISI Chief Lt. General (R) Asad Durrani to deliberate upon the delicately poised relationship of their respective nations, General Flynn said: “The number of people residing in Pakistan is five times more than the Afghan population. So, we are more concerned about Pakistan failing in this war than we are worried for Afghanistan.”

Upon this, General Asad Durrani chipped in saying it was heart-warming when people expressed their concerns about Pakistan. General Durrani opined that interests of Islamabad and Washington DC were certainly not the same as the two sides were perusing different objectives.

The Al-Jazeera TV programme under review was recorded prior to the US drone strike in Pakistan that had killed Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Akhtar Mansour.

At the start, the talk show host Mehdi Hasan said in his opening remarks that about a month after it was revealed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had suspected its Islamabad station chief might have been poisoned following the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the distrust was growing between the two countries.

He said the situation had made the Americans argue that Islamabad was playing a “double game” by supporting the Taliban and claiming at the same time it endorsed Washington DC’s role in the region.

As stated in the introductory paragraph of this story, General Michael Flynn had categorically agreed with the programme host on this point.

Although the reports pertaining to the alleged poisoning of CIA’s Islamabad station chief have not been confirmed, the United States is visibly cautious in its ties with Pakistan and is going forward in this bilateral sensitive relationship with a pinch of salt.

It goes without saying that Pakistani officials have vehemently denied these long-standing accusations.

General Michael Flynn, the US Defence Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama and author of “The field of fight: How we can win the global war against radical Islam and its allies,” had further observed in the programme that double game was surely on as the national security interests of Pakistan were not aligned to those of the United States.

He maintained: “Yes, both United States and the ISI have been supporting different Afghan groups in their respective national interests. These are selfish interests. It is very sad. During the last one decade, I have seen the doubling of radical Islamic groups in the region. It is a biological virus that gets out of control. We do have some common allies and share some similarities. However, we cannot allow the adverse situation in Afghanistan to continue going in the direction where it is heading. We have to re-instill confidence in the people of the region that we can help them. Pakistan and the United States have been collectively enabling these militant groups. We are not going to back out of here. We are not going to pull the plug out. There is too much at stake.”

General (R) Asad Durrani asserted that for a certain period of time, Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan were same as those of the United States as both sides were working together to halt   the Soviet invasion and ensure that Moscow pulled out its troops from the country.

The former Pakistani spymaster had held: “We are certainly not allies in the post 9/11 scenario. As far as the Tehrik-e-Taliban is concerned, it is a product of the military offensive launched by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The presence of US military in Afghanistan is itself a source of concern for many people in the region, including the Pakistanis, because it would mean that Afghanistan remains unstable. All Afghan factions are dear to us. Afghan Taliban are seen as a group fighting against foreign occupation. A recent New York Times survey report showed that the Taliban enjoyed the support of one-third of the Afghan people. They thus have the sympathy of the local population. Regional powers would be foolish not to take this factor into account. Even after the US forces are gone, Pakistan and Afghanistan would continue to live as neighbours. As far as accepting the $18 billion US assistance is concerned, Pakistan would take it because there has been a substantial damage over the years to its structure and economy due to unabated terrorism. And this money will not force Pakistan to either change or sell its national interests.”

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