tharoor153_Veronique de ViguerieGetty Images_pakistantaliban Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

Pakistan’s Taliban Monster

With the Taliban more powerful than ever and poised to reclaim power in Afghanistan, the only external victor will be Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. But as the ISI knows, the problem with creating and sponsoring militant groups is that they do not always remain under your control.

NEW DELHI – The late head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, was fond of boasting that when Afghanistan’s history came to be written, it would record that the ISI, with the help of America, defeated the Soviet Union. And next, he would slyly add, historians would state that the ISI, with the help of America, defeated America.

Gul’s boast was not the sort of empty rodomontade that military men are notorious for once they hang up their uniforms and recall their past as being more glorious than the details might warrant. He was right to argue that it was the ISI’s tactic of sponsoring militants and terrorists – amply armed, supplied, and financed by the United States – against the Red Army in Afghanistan that forced the Kremlin to withdraw ignominiously.

Subsequently, using the same approach and initially many of the same personnel and methods, Pakistan created and sponsored a mujahideen group calling themselves the Taliban, or “students” of Islam, who swiftly took over Afghanistan and ruled it as a wholly owned ISI subsidiary. Things were rosy for Gul and his ilk until Osama bin Laden, a former mujahideen fighter who enjoyed the hospitality of the Taliban’s new “Islamic Emirate,” ordered the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the US from his Afghan hideout.

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