Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif accused the United States of creating and supporting jihadist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, two proxies to the Pakistani state. Additionally, Asif said Pakistan does not have the capabilities to defeat these jihadist outfits, when in reality Pakistan has harbored them.
Asif made the remarkable statements yesterday during the Asia Society forum. Dawn provided an excerpt from Asif’s comments:
“Don’t blame us for the Haqqanis [the Haqqani Network] and don’t blame us for the Hafiz Saeeds [referring to the head of banned Jamaatud Dawa]. These were the people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say ‘go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people’.”
Further clarifying Islamabad’s position, Asif said: “It is very easy to say Pakistan is floating the Haqqanis and Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are liabilities. I accept that they are liabilities, but give us time to get rid of them because we don’t have the assets to match these liabilities and you are increasing them [our liabilities] further.”
As with most astounding lies, a kernel of truth is embedded in Asif’s claims. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US did provide support for the Afghan mujahideen, which included the likes of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbiddin Hekmatyar. However, this support flowed to them indirectly, via the Pakistani state. Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq hand selected the groups that would benefit from US aid. And the Pakistani state continued to nurture and support these groups long after the Soviet withdrawal and United States withdrew support.
Asif’s claim that the Pakistani state views the Haqqani Network – which of course is a powerful subgroup of the Afghan Taliban – and Hafiz Saeed and his Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the rebranded Lashkar-e-Taiba) as “liabilities” is preposterous. These jihadist networks are only liabilities in the sense that Pakistani officials like Asif have to attempt to deflect accusations of state sponsorship. The Pakistani state has done nothing at all to curb Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s power; the “house arrest” of Hafiz Saeed is window dressing. In fact, the group plans to contest elections in 2018.
Pakistan’s failure to target the Haqqani Network is well documented. While the Pakistani military and government have claimed the Haqqanis were targeted during operations in North Waziristan, not a single Haqqani Network leader was killed or captured. The Haqqanis merely temporarily relocated their base of operations to allow the military to target groups like the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Finally, Asif’s statement that Pakistan doesn’t “have the assets to match these liabilities” is outrageous. The fact is that Pakistan’s elites do not want to target jihadists like the Haqqanis and Hafiz Saeed. Instead, they are viewed as strategic assets used to further Pakistan’s goals of destabilizing Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.