Giving ISI officers a safe passage out of Afghanistan in 2001 was a bad idea
When it happened, it didn’t get much coverage in the international media. But five years on, the truth about the Kunduz airlift is being laid out in the open.
The rushed negotiations between the United States and Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 changed Pakistan’s behavior but not its interests. Supporting the Taliban was so important to Pakistan that Musharraf even considered going to war with the United States rather than abandon his allies in Afghanistan. Instead, he tried to persuade Washington to allow him to install a “moderate Taliban” government or, failing that, at least to prevent the Northern Alliance, which Pakistanis see as allied with India, from entering Kabul and forming a government. The agreement by Washington to dilute Northern Alliance control with remnants of Afghanistan’s royal regime did little to mollify the generals in Islamabad, to say nothing of the majors and colonels who had spent years supporting the Taliban in the border areas. Nonetheless, in order to prevent the United States from allying with India, Islamabad acquiesced in reining in its use of asymmetrical warfare, in return for the safe evacuation of hundreds of Pakistani officers and intelligence agents from Afghanistan, where they had overseen the Taliban’s military operations. [Barnett R Rubin/Foreign Affairs, emphasis added]
Rubin’s article argues that indulging the Pakistani army was a mistake, and if the United States wants to ‘save the international effort in Afghanistan’ it must ‘and rethink its strategy — especially its approach to Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to insurgents on its tribal frontier’.