Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
In “An Enemy We Created,” authors Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn described assumptions about a supposedly unbreakable link between the Taliban and al Qaeda as “the principal strategic blunder of the war in Afghanistan.” Al Qaeda’s leadership, they wrote, relied on and coordinated closely with Jalaluddin Haqqani rather than the younger and less experienced Kandahari Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
Their contention – that with more political will and insight war might even have been avoided altogether – has been disputed by those who say Washington did try and fail to engage the Taliban in serious talks ahead of the Sept 11 attacks. Yet in a week where the United States has gone through a bout of soul-searching about the Iraq war, history matters. Were the assumptions that led to the Afghan war also wrong from the start?
A new book by Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, “Fountainhead of Jihad, The Haqqani Nexus: 1973 to 2012” adds to that history by focusing on the Afghan group that actually did have the closest ties to al Qaeda – the so-called Haqqani network.
As I wrote here, the book has unearthed primary sources to show that the patriarch of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, had as much influence on al Qaeda as the Arab fighters had on him – providing them with support and an Afghan safe haven during the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
When tribal elders reportedly ordered five girls killed in remote northern Pakistan for singing and clapping, outraged media coverage prompted the Supreme Court to order an investigation.
The deeply flawed investigation concluded the girls were alive and the matter was dropped. But new killings – and new evidence collected by Reuters – suggests the girls are dead.