In 1994, when the Taliban burst upon the scene in Kandahar there was a reluctant recognition in Pakistan, that given their astonishing success they could perhaps bring peace to Afghanistan at a time when Pakistan’s efforts to mediate peace between the Afghan factions had failed. This was when the Americans had walked away from the region and when other regional powers appeared intent on supporting the factions they favoured, caring little for the overall stability of the country. It was also when the Mujahideen were busy wreaking greater destruction on Afghanistan than it had suffered during the decade long Soviet occupation. We were not alone in this. Similar hopes were entertained by the Americans who also sought advantages from Afghanistan’s location. Our hopes were belied. The Northern Alliance continued to hold territory in the North and this rump regime enjoyed recognition and support from India, Iran and Russia. The world worried about the Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. This was the situation when New York was attacked and a multi flawed US operation began The following mistakes — certainly not a comprehensive list — that the Americans made in Afghanistan justifiably aroused suspicions and misgivings about their intentions. First, in 1996, when Taliban control over a large part of Afghanistan had been consolidated, they allowed Bin Laden to fly to Afghanistan from Sudan. In Sudan he was under the careful eye of a Sudanese government anxious to keep on the good side of the Americans. In Afghanistan, he was revered as a hero of the Jihad in which the Taliban leaders had participated as foot soldiers. Second, in their relentless search for Al-Qaeda, the US resurrected the warlords, who had gone under cover during the Taliban rule, and handed over generous amounts of dollars. They turned a blind eye to the resumption of poppy cultivation that had virtually disappeared in the last year of Taliban rule. Moreover, they picked up and took to Guantanamo many innocent Afghans fingered by these warlords as part of personal vendettas or as part of the struggle for influence in their area of operation. Third, they failed to use their own troops to eliminate Bin Laden and his followers when they were trapped in Tora Bora. Instead, they relied upon Afghan mercenaries with the predictable consequence that either by bribery or by devotion, these Afghans permitted Bin Laden to cross into Pakistan and saddled us with the problem. Our role in the GWOT was to cleanse our own territory of terrorist groups, a task we would have had to undertake eventually Fourth, they convened a Bonn Conference from which the Taliban and most Pashtuns were excluded, making intentionally or otherwise, the Taliban the representatives of Pashtun nationalism. Fifth and most importantly, they rejected or forced Karzai to reject the Taliban offer to return to Afghanistan and live as ordinary citizens in return for amnesty. Sixth, they did this as part of a larger scheme to remake the Middle East. They were planning a war on Iraq and diverting resources and political attention from Afghanistan. Common sense would have dictated that if resources were no longer available for Afghanistan, the Taliban should have been granted the amnesty they sought and reduced American involvement in Afghanistan to the rebuilding of a country that had been more devastated by internecine warfare than by the years of Soviet occupation. Much could have been different if the Americans had behaved differently. The important point however is that apart from the assistance we provided to the Americans for their plans in Afghanistan — our part in the Global War of Terror was to cleanse our own areas — a task we would have had to undertake irrespective of what the Americans did or did not do in Afghanistan. This was our war and in many ways independent of the war waged in Afghanistan. How did our areas become hotbeds of extremism? This was at least partly the direct result of the policy of our rulers of the day. We had, along with the Americans and then the Saudis and others supported the Afghan ‘freedom fighters’ in their struggle against the Soviet occupation. General Ziaul Haq, our ruler at that time was anxious to ensure the consolidation of his version of Islam in Pakistan. He wanted to use the Afghan Jihad for this purpose. Therefore, he decided that the Jihad was to be waged with the slogan of “Islam in Danger” rather than the mildly offered American suggestion supported by some of the Mujahideen that the deposed King Zahir Shah be brought back from Rome and under his leadership the slogan of “Afghan nationalism” be used. The Americans were in this game only to impose on the Russians the same humiliation that the Vietnamese had inflicted on the Americans. They were prepared to let us determine how this war was to be waged and to help us with such things as bringing extremists, among them Osama Bin Laden, from all parts of the Muslim world to Peshawar to wage a Jihad against the infidel Soviets alongside their Muslim Afghan brothers. We set up this chain of Madaris along our border to train Afghans, and unfortunately Pakistanis for the Jihad; and entrusted their running to Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI. The Americans then helped us devise curricula for the Madaris and this included gems such as an arithmetic book which taught addition by saying “One Kalashnikov plus three Kalashnikovs is equal to 4 Kalashnikovs”. They were prepared to go along with whatever we proposed with regard to the many Afghan Mujahideen groups that existed at that time and to let us determine the level of assistance each would receive. In one fell stroke, we reduced the 29 Afghan parties that existed to seven and decided that of them Gulbuddin Hikmatyar’s Hizbe Islami (a largely Pashtun Party) rather than Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Masood’s Jamiate Islami (a largely Tajik party) would be the principal recipient of assistance. We were in this Jihad, as the tail that wagged the dog, and when the results of our efforts produced not just the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan but the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there was this heady feeling of invincibility in our policy circles. What did we gain? We could complete the work needed to ensure a working nuclear weapon capability while the Americans turned a not so blind eye towards this development but for the rest we have only loss to show for our efforts. This I will dilate on in my next column. Concluded The writer is former foreign secretary, and former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Canada, Iran and Germany. He currently heads the Global and Regional Studies Centre at IoBM, Karachi Published in Daily Times, August 28th 2018.