Elements of the Pakistan army sent to ungoverned tribal areas on a mission to fight Islamic terrorists are instead helping the militants attack Afghanistan.
Two sources — one a military officer who just returned from the war theater, the other a government source — told HUMAN EVENTS rogue Pakistani military officers are aiding radical tribal leaders by providing training, as well as advice on tactics and how to procure weapons on the black market.
The military’s help is an example of the mixed performance of U.S. ally Pakistan in the war on terror, and in particular the fight inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where al Qaeda and the Taliban operate.
The FATA has become a critical target in the U.S. war on al Qaeda. It is where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. It is also where militants are trained to infiltrate Afghanistan and killed NATO and local forces in a campaign to topple the elected government of President Hamid Karzai.
"The Pakistani government and the military in particular are not monolithic," said a senior U.S. official. "In some areas, there’s very good counter-terrorism cooperation with us. In other areas, there is plenty of room for improvement. There are elements within the government and military that might have some links to militant groups in the region. That is a matter of concern."
Nadeem Kiani, spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Washington, took issue with reports of army-militant collaboration.
"We have not received any specific evidence of any military officer helping terrorists," Kiani told HUMAN EVENTS. "If we are provided specific evidence, we will take action."
He said there are now 120,000 soldiers in the FATA, about one-fifth of Pakistan’s active duty army. Terrorists there have killed over 1,200 army soldiers and other security officials.
"If there was any collaboration of any sort to help the militants, you would not see these sorts of things against security officers," Kiani said. "The Pakistan army is very professional organization. It is one of the best armies in the world."
On the one hand, the government of Pervez Musharraf, a former top army general who resigned this week as Pakistan’s president, dispatched army troops to the FATA for the first time in its history to combat al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.
But at the same time, some of the officers sent there have aided rather than fought the extremists, forming bonds that included attending religious services together, one of the sources said.
The officers are rogue, not acting at the behest of the government, the sources say. They are more loyal to the militant version of Islam than to the state.
The alliance is rooted in the Pakistan army’s complex makeup. Some officers replicate the U.S. system of strict civilian control over the military. Others were loyal to Musharraf and helped him take power in 1999.
And then there are elements whose first loyalty is to Islam and the Koran, according to a military intelligence officer interviewed by HUMAN EVENTS.
This source pointed to a book to help understand the Pakistan army’s divided loyalties.
In 1979, a then-Pakistani general, S.K. Malik, published the Koranic Concept of War, Vice Power. It is essentially doctrine on how to fight wars based on the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed himself.
The book is not well circulated in the West. Not much was known about it in U.S. national security quarters until an intelligence officer published a review last year in Parameters, the U.S. Army War College’s professional journal.
Copies have been found with captured extremists in Afghanistan. The military intelligence officer said it is well read within the Pakistan army — a fact that may spur some soldiers to back the Islamists in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
"It is instructional and, with the endorsement of Haq and Brohi, it became policy," said the intelligence officer.
This is a reference to Zia-ul-Haq, the late president of Pakistan, and Allah Bukhsh Brohi, the late provincial advocate general, or prosecutor, of Pakistan. Both wrote book endorsements.
The Pakistan army’s links to extremists has been overshadowed by news stories about the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), the country’s CIA.
The ISI is known to be infested with militant-friendly officers. The New York Times reported that the U.S. has firm evidence that ISI operatives helped extremists plan the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.
It was not the first time the ISI has aided radical Islam. The ISI helped establish the Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 1996. The U.S. is leery of sharing intelligence with the ISI for fear the classified information will flow to al Qaeda. In fact, the White House has the go-ahead to strike bin Laden in Pakistan without first seeking permission from Islamabad. The deal is to prevent the ISI from tipping off al Qaeda.
"In many respects, the Pakistanis have been very good partners in combating terrorism," said the senior U.S. official. "In other areas, there’s certainly more things that could be done."