By funding al-Qaida in the 1980s as a means of rebuffing Soviet Russia’s growing influence in Asia, the U.S. helped establish Islamic radicalism in Pakistan and Afghanistan — defeating Iran’s hegemonic ambitions while also throwing Pakistan off its political balance.
Pakistani police officers stand guard outside a court, as they bring Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, center, the main suspect in the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, leaving after his court appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec 30, 2014. Photo: Anjum Naveed/AP
LONDON — Since U.S. President George W. Bush declared in his Sept. 20, 2001 address to the nation that America and its allies would wage a “war on terror,” American troops have widened their offensive across the Middle East and Asia, opening new fronts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Bush told Congress and the American people. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
Yet terror has become the world’s most present threat — a reality which countries around the globe have had to wrestle with and mount an opposition to. And while radicalism has been a universal plague, no country has suffered and bled under its bite more than Pakistan.
Speaking with MintPress News, Ashok Patnaik, an India-based investigative journalist and editor in chief of Eenadu India, said that although Pakistan had strained itself fighting radicalism prior to 2001, “America’s intervention in neighboring Afghanistan, and President Bush’s drone campaign within Pakistan’s borders led to an explosion of violence.”
Indeed, WikiLeaks published in December a leaked 2009 CIA review of the United States’ “High Value Target” (HVT) assassination program, which clearly determined that drone strikes were counterproductive and, in fact, strengthened extremist groups in some cases. Yet, as the press release from WikiLeaks noted, “After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.”
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an estimated 2,428 to 3,929 people have died as a result of U.S.-led drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, while well over 1,000 others have been injured.
“Pakistan has paid for Washington’s war with its people’s blood. Pakistan has been literally infected with the virus of radicalism. Terror cells have spawned militants by the thousands, and groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban have encroached themselves so tightly and deeply onto Pakistan that the integrity of the state is now at risk,” Patnaik said.
Pointing to the December shooting in Peshawar as “proof that terror has spun out of control,” Patnaik said, “We need to ask ourselves, How did we get here? Whose agenda is terror serving? And, most importantly, who is funding terror?”
The quest to answer these questions has fed a controversial polemic on whether the United States has had a hand in the creation and subsequent sponsoring of radicalism in Pakistan. While Pakistan has long been recognized as a staging ground and planning center for Islamic terrorists operating in South Asia, the U.S. nevertheless brokered an alliance with Islamabad to pursue its own “war on terror” in the region, exchanging aid for collaboration.
In 2009, Congress approved the Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act. Also known as the KLB, the bill authorized the tripling of U.S. economic and development-related assistance to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years (2010-2014).
Beyond political matters there’s the ever-present issue of war profiteering. America’s “war on terror” has bolstered the weapons manufacturers industry, which represents an alliance of capitalism and imperialism. In his 2009 book, “America’s War on Terrorism,” Prof. Michel Chossudovsky explores the world of war profiteering, highlighting disturbing links between U.S. government policies and aggressive capitalism.
Tony Cartalucci, a geopolitical researcher and writer based in Bangkok, has long argued that terror is a tool wielded by Western hands, a ruse which serves an imperial globalist agenda.
In a February 2013 report published in the Centre for Research on Globalization, Cartalucci identifies the U.S. as the engineer and financier of global terrorism. Referring to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist outfit’s activities in Pakistan, he wrote: “Billed as a ‘Sunni extremist group,’ it [LeJ] instead fits the pattern of global terrorism sponsored by the US, Israel, and their Arab partners Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
Yet Pakistan hasn’t relied solely on outside forces to foster extremism within its borders. In July 2009, then-President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari admitted that this government had “created and nurtured” terrorist groups to achieve its short-term foreign policy goals, including establishing territorial superiority in Kashmir, a disputed territory administered by India, Pakistan and China.
As Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics, highlights in commentary for the Middle East Policy Council, “Pakistan has provided safe haven not just for radical Islamist movements targeting its rival India, but also for the Afghan Taliban.”
Pakistan’s terror: made in America?
Cartalucci is adamant that just as the U.S. helped to fund and finance al-Qaida in the 1980s as a means of rebuffing Soviet Russia’s growing influence in Asia, the U.S. played a hand in the establishment and cementing of Islamic radicalism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan — not only to defeat Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, but also to throw Pakistan off its political balance.
In an April report for New Eastern Outlook, Cartalucci describes in great detail how Washington has played Islamic radicalism as a powerful political weapon against its hegemonic will. He writes: “Clearly, US geopolitical policy makers have put much time and effort into the destabilization of Pakistan.”
Cartalucci stresses in a December blog post:
“It is clear that to the West, as they were during the proxy war against the Soviets, and during attempts to forge an oil pipeline across Afghan territory, the Taliban remain a tool, not an ally — to be used and abused whenever and however necessary to advance Wall Street and Washington’s agenda — a self-serving Machiavellian agenda clearly devoid of principles.This can be seen in play, even now as the Taliban serve as a proxy force to torment the West’s political enemies in Pakistan with and serve as a perpetual justification for military intervention in neighboring Afghanistan.”
Although U.S. officials have traditionally positioned themselves as fiercely opposed to terrorism — either terrorism born from Islamic radicalism or otherwise, history has already proven that America did indeed harbor ties with militants, including al-Qaida.
In April 2009, for example, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that the White House had played an active and decisive role in the establishment of al-Qaida.
“We have a history of getting in and out of Pakistan … Let us remember here that the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago. And we did it because we were left in this struggle against the Soviet Union,” she stressed.
Statements like Clinton’s and other evidence have ultimately led analysts to challenge the very foundations of the “war on terror” and question its legitimacy.
While recognizing Washington’s involvement with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Clinton rationalized the act of leveraging terror as a strategic political and military tool against a designated enemy.
Following that logic, experts like Cartalucci have theorized that if terrorism could be justified as a potent weapon of war within the parameters of America’s global geostrategic interests in the 1980s, who’s to say that Washington ever pulled the plug on such a strategy? Although seldom discussed in Western media, the theory that Washington has colluded with terrorist militants for the sake of furthering its political agenda in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, is hardly a new one.
In 2006, former National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. William Odom said, “By any measure the U.S. has long used terrorism.”
“Terrorism cannot be defeated because it’s not an enemy, it’s a tactic. A war against al-Qaida is sensible and supportable, but a war against a tactic is ludicrous and hurtful — a propaganda ploy to swindle others into supporting one’s own terrorism .. and encourages prejudices against Muslims everywhere. What if we said, ‘Catholic Christian IRA hitmen?”
Playing the proxy game in Pakistan?
If the U.S. has not rebuked the idea that it plays terror to the beat of its geopolitical ambitions, it also has not danced alone, Cartalucci tells MintPress. According to his assessment, America’s terror network appears to stretch far and wide into the Middle East and Asia, operating via a tight network of proxies.
“Pay particularly close attention to the Saudi-terror links, as the U.S. regularly launders terror sponsorship through KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]. Also, the chaos in Baluchistan is openly backed by NED [National Endowment for Democracy], on record,” Cartalucci told MintPress.
Designated by Clinton in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable in December 2009 as “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” Saudi Arabia would have acted on Washington’s behalf and under Washington’s command, Cartalucci tells MintPress.
“While the United States is close allies with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it is well established that the chief financier of extremist militant groups for the past three decades, including Al Qaeda, are in fact Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” he blogged in 2013.
Another leaked cable published in the Guardian specifically details how Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, used a Saudi-based front company to fund its activities in 2005. Under the cover of various organizations, the LeT and other militant groups channeled funds from government-sanctioned charities based in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, such as Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
“Despite such damaging intelligence, Saudi Arabia remains to this day one of Washington’s staunchest allies in the region, reinforcing the idea that there could be more to terror than meets the eye,” Patnaik, the journalist, said.
“Without pointing a definite finger at the U.S. and claiming that Islamic radicalism was solely engineered to serve American interests, it is evident that questions beg to be answered. There are many dimensions to terror and trying to find a guilty party simply takes away from the complexity of the issue.”
Indeed, while experts like Cartalucci and Patnaik have actively accused America of being involved in developing terrorism in Pakistan, arguing that the Pentagon used radicals as an asymmetric weapon of war, others have deemed such allegations preposterous.
In an interview with MintPress in October, Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan vigorously rejected the notion of an American terror connection in Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing instead that Islamabad was solely to blame for the rise of radicalism in the region.
Referring to allegations that Washington helped engineer terror in the region, Prince Ali noted: “The United States did not know what was going on in Afghanistan. … If anything, the U.S. was taken by surprise. The U.S. has been playing catch-up ever since 2001.”
Local residents gather at the site of a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. The Pakistani police said a bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in Rawalpindi, next to the capital of Islamabad, killing several people. Photo: Anjum Naveed/AP
While theories on the roots and causes of terrorism remain open to debate, the role of politics in the terrorism narrative is more straightforward. Pakistan’s citizens have suffered at the hands of radicals, but the country has also helped to prop up militants to promote its own interests. Washington never had the monopoly on manipulation.
“One could actually argue that Pakistan invented the concept of terror as a geostrategic political tool. Pointing the finger at the U.S. would be missing half of the picture. Islamabad is as much to blame here. We have reached a juncture where we feed terror radicals with one hand while killing them with the other,” Patnaik told MintPress.
In August 2012, “Mapping Militant Organizations,” a Stanford University research project tracing the evolution of militant organizations and the interactions that develop, aligned LeJ’s anti-Shiite ideology to Pakistan’s political agenda, pointing to Islamabad’s exploitation of terrorism as a tool for causing political disruption in Iran, its main regional rival.
“LeJ has had a long relationship with the Pakistani state. Beginning in the 1980s, LeJ’s parent organization SSP, and then later LeJ itself, received financial support from the central Pakistani government,” the authors of the project wrote.
The authors then introduce the notion of terror as an asymmetric warfare strategy which Islamabad assimilated as part of its covert foreign policy:
“This funding was intended to counter the rising influence of Iran’s revolutionary Shiism, as well as to use the groups as an asymmetric element of its strategy toward India. LeJ and most other Sunni militant groups in Pakistan gladly accepted financial support, but cooperated only when the government’s goals accorded with their own.”
Pakistan’s tradition of asymmetric warfare stretches back to 1947, when Islamabad sought to destabilize India via proxies while still maintaining an air of plausible deniability.
The use of mujahideen, as well as regular troops disguised as mujahideen, serves as the foundation of Pakistan’s denial and deception efforts to convince domestic and international audiences that these asymmetric operations were conducted by non-state actors.
Flash forward a few decades, and it appears asymmetrical warfare has taken on additional layers of conflicting interests, adding to the opacity and inherent paradoxical nature of such strategy.
Highlighting this constantly evolving political reality, Cartalucci wrote in December 2013, “While Saudi Arabia funds terrorism in Pakistan, the U.S. is well documented to be funding political subversion in the very areas where the most heinous attacks are being carried out.”
Cartalucci argues that while Pakistan pursues its own terror agenda against India and Iran, the U.S. has also played the asymmetrical game, using state-sponsored grants and charitable donations — like the funding approved by Congress in 2009 — to funnel money to terrorist organizations.
He stresses: “Like other U.S. State Department funded propaganda outfits around the world – such as Thailand’s Prachatai – funding is generally obfuscated in order to maintain ‘credibility’ even when the front’s constant torrent of obvious propaganda more than exposes them.”
The issue of terrorism in Pakistan has many facets and players — both domestic and international, but there’s still one major question that begs to be answered: If a capitalist war industry stands to make billions from perpetuating conflict and violence, why would those who spin the wheel ever stop? Thus, rather than exploring ways to eliminate terror, it may be more effective to explore ways to eliminate war profiteering.