I finally got around to reading the new report by Mr Matt Waldman from London School of Economics. I could barely get through it without groaning. This is the quality of work coming out of LSE? Very disappointing. It seems like Mr Waldman is perhaps out to make a name for himself by writing sensational reports. Too bad it is so far fetched it’s hardly believable. Which left me wondering, what was the point?
The author of the report, Mr Matt Waldman, is a long-time opponent of the war in Afghanistan and has written for years predicting that military operations will fail in Afghanistan. While it certainly makes sense that there needs to be more focus on the needs of people in Afghanistan – and in our own tribal areas – reading his latest report, one cannot help but wonder if Mr Waldman’s view has not been unduly coloured by his own beliefs.
Almost all of the quotes that Waldman uses are from anonymous sources. That’s not surprising, but what is surprising is what he chooses to believe and disbelieve. Take for example the quote about how Zardari supposedly told Taliban leaders that ‘you are our people, we are your friends.’ Waldman accepts such an unlikely scenario without question. But read on to where his same sources tell him that the Americans are secretly funding the Taliban and he suddenly gets a case of incredulity saying, “Although this is not credible…”
Actually, this is not the first time that Waldman is forced to question the validity of what he is told. After a lengthy paragraph containing quotes from his Taliban sources claiming that they don’t want to kill innocents or blow up schools, but are forced to by the ISI, Waldman follows with, “Whether these assertions are true is debatable…” You don’t say.
Reading through the report, I was struck by how easy it would be to swap out ‘CIA’ for ‘ISI’ and the report could easily have been written by Zaid Hamid or any other conspiracy theorist. The evidence throughout the report is weak, at best. And to accept the reports findings one has to believe that for all intents and purposes, there is no Taliban. It is only ISI who is at work.
Really, though, can it be any surprise that Taliban sources – especially under the cloak of anonymity – are telling this naive gentleman that they are the real victims! That it is secretly ISI who is behind everything? How convenient!
I do not doubt that there are some ISI and MI elements who are supporting some jihadis. This is not so hard to imagine, and there is plenty of reason to believe it is so. But that is not what Mr Waldman suggests. Rather he is saying that it is official policy from the state of Pakistan – President on down to the ISI man in FATA – who is funding, organizing, planning, and carrying out terrorist attacks.
In order to believe this, you have to believe that all the military soliders who are being killed by Taliban are really just being killed by themselves. You have to believe that attacks on ISI and GHQ by Taliban are really carried out by ISI and military itself. You have to believe that the government is allowing drone attacks to kill itself. This is so stupid I don’t know how anyone can believe it. You would have to believe that the entire war is being done with Pakistan on both sides. Stupid.
I’m not the only one to see this silliness for what it is. Huma Imtiaz had a similar reaction:
Even though hating President Zardari might be a national pastime in Pakistan for many, this statement seems far-fetched, even to the most committed of his foes.First, it is hard to believe that the uber-secretive ISI would share such information with members of the civilian government. Secondly, even if ISI officials did take Pakistan’s civilian government into confidence, why would they take a civilian president to assure the Taliban of the ISI’s support? If they had to reassure the high-ranking Talibs, a more reassuring face would have been that of the ISI chief’s, or even the Chief of Army Staff’s.
President Zardari’s media adviser has already denied the allegations. Athar Abbas, head of the army’s PR wing, has termed it “rubbish.”
Secondly, what is rather unbelievable is that a majority of the Taliban members who are interviewed in the Waldman report despise the ISI. You begin to feel, based on their allegations that had it not been for the ISI’s pressure, they would happily give up their arms. While we have indeed seen anti-Pakistan statements from the Afghan government and from the Afghan people in recent years, it would have benefited the author to have interviewed at least a few former or current ISI members, as the report seems a rather one-sided account. And while I don’t discount the expertise of Ahmed Rashid or the Washington Post, citing their articles to prove a point that is on flimsy grounds to begin with does not help the veracity of this report.
Mosharraf Zaidi says that Mr Matt Waldman should be sued for libel. I can’t say I disagree. The author is no mere student who is perhaps misguided. This is a long-time professional who should absolutely know better than to publish such sensational nonsense. A man of his stature must know that the obvious result would be controversy, and he should be held responsible for his actions.
There are some real lingering problems with jihadi sympathizers both in groups like ISI and retired from the same. How does it do any good to solving these problems for such a report as Mr Waldman’s to be published. The only possible reason to do such a thing would seem to be an attempt to make a bad name for Pakistan so that we become isolated and left at the mercy of Talibans so that his country doesn’t have to make any more sacrifices. This might be a suitable answer for Mr Waldman who enjoys his luxurious home in the West. But for those of us who have to live with this Taliban monster on a day-to-day basis, it’s not such a fine answer.