The General Accountability Office has released a report accusing Pakistan of blocking efforts to curb the smuggling of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) into Afghanistan:
IEDs are the top killer of U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan, according the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization. JIEDDO estimates that 83 percent of IEDs used in attacks on U.S. troops are made with fertilizers produced in Pakistan. IED attacks have increased slightly over the 12 months ending April 30, the most recent data available. There were 16,165 IED incidents over that period, a 2 percent increase.
More good news from Pakistan — not words I’m used to writing, but it’s true. Following the arrest of Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 man, Pakistani forces have also locked up two of the Taliban’s “shadow governors” who are in nominal charge of two Afghan provinces. Is this, perhaps, the start of a trend? Hard to say. But it’s certainly a good start. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency is so closely connected with the Afghan Taliban, to whom they provide funding, arming, intelligence, and general strategic direction, that if ISI truly turns against its proxies, its agents could readily arrest most of the Taliban leadership with little problem. Let us hope they decide to do so.
One of the major determinants of success or failure for insurgencies has always been whether they are able to receive substantial support from the outside. The Taliban were able to resurrect themselves with Pakistani support after 2001 — just as they were able to seize power in the first place in the 1990s with Pakistan’s backing. If that support is now being withdrawn, it will be a serious, if not fatal, blow to the Afghan Taliban. They will still have financing that comes from the drug trade and from rich Arab donors, but they will find it much harder to access those funds and to carry out all the other activities (propaganda, training, arming, etc.) necessary to keep a guerrilla movement flourishing. I am by no means suggesting that such a complete cutoff is in the works, but even the steps Pakistan has already taken are significant and surprising.
It would be fascinating to find out what is going on in Pakistani government circles — what convinced them to round up such prominent erstwhile allies? It’s hard to know, but perhaps President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has something to do with it. By signaling that the U.S. is not bugging out, the president shifted the odds against a Taliban victory and made Pakistan more willing to accommodate our concerns. Or so we can speculate from afar. The true story will only emerge in time.