Saturday, March 28, 2009

Best for Obama Not to Talk About the Taliban

Obama's recent decision to escalate troop presence, in Afghanistan, by adding an additional 4,000 troops will be easier to pitch at home, and abroad, if he avoids talking about taking out the Taliban, and sticks to Al Qaeda principally because of the gaping questions as to who has been financing, and training, the Taliban, in Pakistan, over the seven year period before 9/11.

Pakistan was conspicuous in its absence from George W. Bush's laundry list especially in light of the release, in 2007, of a declassified report, by the National Security Archives, which chronicles its role in funding, and arming, the Taliban in the seven years leading up to 9/11. The report also shows who supplied the Taliban with weapons, as well as training.

Documents obtained by the National Security Archive, two years ago, not only demonstrate what we already know, that Pakistan has provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden for years, but also that Islamabad has supported the Taliban not merely in the years prior to the World Trade Center bombing, but in subsequent years, as well. Former president Musharraf himself acknowledged that "There is no doubt that Afghan militants are supported from Pakistani soil." Documents released a week ago indicate, too, that "the Taliban was directly funded, armed and advised by Islamabad itself."

Apart from the obvious that the CIA trained, and equipped, bin Laden when he was one of Ronald Reagan's fierce "freedom fighters," in Afghanistan, during their holy war against the "evil empire" that was the Soviet Union in 1985, Reagan's favorite freedom fighter has become public enemy numero uno under George W. Bush, and now under Barack Obama, though Mr. Bush was busy stuffing the pockets of bin Laden's protegees.

And, as the NSA reported while Musharraf was still at the wheel: "Islamabad denies that it ever provided military support to the Taliban, but the newly-released documents report that in the weeks following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan’s intelligence agency was “supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food.” Pakistan’s Interservice Intelligence Directorate was “using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces.” If this is the case, and Pakistan effectively exported trained Taliban fighters to Afghanistan, then the battlefield must inevitably expand from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

And, think about this: while American servicemen and women were in neighboring Afghanistan hunting down the Taliban, Uncle Sam was in bed with General Musharraf and a regime that we now know was working toward a Taliban victory in that country.

Making the Taliban the target of expanded military action in the region opens the U.S. up to logical, and imperative, questions about who is funding the rebels not just in Afghanistan, but in Iran, too. The answer might inspire the kind of international outrage the Obama administration doesn't want, and can ill afford.