Pakistan Wants to Control Afghanistan

The U.S. should be wary of its “ally” Pakistan, says Van Dyk.
  • Transcript


Question: Is Pakistan really our ally?

Jere Van Dyk:  No.  I think that when you look at the history of Pakistan, when it was formed in 1947, the only country that voted against its being allowed entry into the United Nations was Afghanistan, and that had to do with the border region.  In 1948 when Pakistan was trying to wrest Kashmir from India, it took men from the tribal areas, Pashtuns, and used them to fight against India as a guerrilla force.  And they almost captured Srinigar, the capital.

Realizing the power of these Pashtuns, of these tribal men, their fierceness as warriors, their tradition as fighters, and their belief in Islam, they used them to create—they were the vanguard in the beginnings and the leadership of the Mujahadeen, America's and Pakistan's ally against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.  When I returned from Afghanistan in the 1980s and worked as a consultant for the State Department, and the National Security Council, in the Reagan Administration, the United States and Pakistan took these Mujahadeen, these men that had been brought up to power, and they created a government called the "Afghan Mujahadeen Government in Exile."  I was their guide when they came to New York to present their credentials to the United Nations.

When they—when the Mujahadeen disintegrated and began to fight amongst themselves, out of this came the Taliban.  The Taliban in a great many ways are the sons, and the grandsons, and the younger brothers of the most militant members of the Mujahadeen.  One of the most prominent members of the Taliban, a man named Hakani, who I lived with in the 1980's, who had an Arab visit... an Egyptian Army officer come and stay with us, who I later figured out was one of the very beginnings of al Qaeda.

When this occurred, I began to realize the close ties between al Qaeda and the Mujahadeen; this man today, Hakani, is one of the leaders of the Taliban.  Only three countries, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, granted it diplomatic recognition.  Principal among them:  Pakistan.  Secondly, Saudi Arabia.  Thirdly, the United Arab Emirates.  No other country in the world.

Pakistan's foreign policy is to prevent itself from being surrounded by India, afraid that India would use Afghanistan to surround Pakistan.  It wants to...  In 2006, Major General Shaukat Sultan, presidential spokesman for President Pervez Musharref told me: "All our invasions come from the West."  Pashtuns feel that the lands inside Pakistan that go all the way to the Indus River are theirs.  They do not accept the Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Not one single legislature in the history of Afghanistan has ever accepted this border.

The Pakistani army is comprised of Punjabis, the Pakistani—it's led by Punjabis.  The main ethnic —the most populous, and the richest, the most accomplished ethnic group in Pakistan—the bureaucracy of Pakistan is run by Punjabis.  They are at war with the Pashtuns to prevent the Pashtuns from going back and taking the lands that were once theirs that stretch all the way to the Indus River.

In a meeting I had with President Karzai he lamented the fact that so many Pashtun lands are now in the hands of Pakistan.  So Pakistan has a geopolitical goal of surrounding India, to prevent itself from being reconquered by the Pashtuns, and thirdly it wants to, in my view, recreate the Mughal Muslim empire... thereby establishing trade relationships with Sunni Central Asia, taking over Afghanistan, to expand it's reach, and finally in order to gain access to the most important resource it needs and is desperately in shortage of: water.  All water comes from—the main water sources of Pakistan come from India, and they come from Afghanistan.

Question: How worried should we be about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?

Jere Van Dyk: There have been many reports of how the United States has contingency plans, we have to take over those nuclear arms if something were to go terribly awry in Pakistan.  Those arms themselves cannot be directed against the United States.  Pakistan is too far away from the United States.  It's not the Soviet Union, which had missiles that were capable of reaching our soil.

The fact that members of the Pakistani military are deeply religious and would be aligned with al Qaeda and would try to help those people... help al Qaeda get those weapons and access to them and therefore help them with all their abilities to reach the West, yes, I do think that that's a threat. But I think it's a long-term threat.  I personally don't worry about that.  I think that a far greater threat is the continuation of the war on television, which radicalizes young men in the West like this man who went and tried to do what he did in Times Square.  I think that is a much greater threat to the United States in the short term than any nuclear arms falling into al Qaeda.

Recorded June 29. 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller