Peshawar Massacre and America’s Covert War in Pakistan

A few days have now passed since the brutal attack that took place in the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. The official death toll stands at 141 dead, the vast majority of those were innocent school children. There has been an outpouring of grief from all corners of Pakistan and all people from all backgrounds have condemned the attack including many groups in the tribal areas and Mullah Umar of the Afghan Taliban.

When any tragedy takes place and once the victims are buried and dua is made over them we turn our attention to the causes and circumstances that led to the tragedy and how to ensure it is never repeated again. America’s decade of war in neighboring Afghanistan forms the backdrop to the latest bombings to which Pakistan’s successive civilian and military leaders completely signed the country up to. Analyzing this relationship between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders with the US shows it was the US entry into the region that played a central role in the deaths of so many people in Pakistan.

America’s first major foray into the region was during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, through operation Cyclone – the code name for the United States CIA programme to arm the Mujahideen. The US initiated multiple programs for training Jihadi groups in techniques such as car bombings, assassinations and engaging in cross-border raids into the USSR. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided the money and resources, and the ISI utilised these in fighting a guerrilla war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The US left the region in 1989 after Soviet withdrawal and left Pakistan to pick up the mess. The US participated in setting up the Jihadi networks which the US would later order Pakistan to dismantle after the 9/11 attacks.

Under General Musharraf Pakistan provided the US with military airports and bases for its war on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support. Musharraf highlighted in his biography, In the Line of Fire: “we’ve captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We’ve earned bounties totaling millions of dollars.” Having driven the Taliban from Kabul and with the insurgency in Iraq bogging the US down, America’s military, political and security attention turned to the Middle East. The Taliban, although driven from power were not defeated, instead they had retreated to the Afghan/Pakistan boarder which allowed them to regroup. With the focus of America’s military attention elsewhere led to the revival of the Taliban and by 2005 the Taliban were firmly back in Afghanistan, regaining much of their losses.

This was also when the US began its covert operations inside Pakistan. The US concluded to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and secure her interests in the region all supply lines supporting the resistance in Afghanistan had to be identified and cut, which for the US were all coming from Pakistan. This included the Haqqani network in Waziristan and the various tribes from the FATA region and SWAT area. Most US officials were publicly stating military personnel, ISI personnel and civilian government personnel were in cahoots with the Haqqani network and the tribes supporting the war against the US in Afghanistan. These allegations surfaced 2010 when made public (NYT) a trove of US intelligence records on the war in Afghanistan. The documents described ISI’s links to militant groups fighting U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. The same organisations that the U.S. had utilised during the 80s against the USSR.

The U.S. had early on in the invasion put pressure on the Pakistan government, who was led by the military dictator Pervez Musharraf, to engage in rooting out militants between the Afghan/Pakistan border. However the operations were deeply unpopular amongst many within the Pakistani military and the wider public. Many saw this as doing the dirty work in America’s war rather than in Pakistan’s interest, against a people fighting a righteous jihad against American military occupation. Furthermore images of refugees, Muslims being killed including women and children resulted in calls for disengagement of the Pakistan military. By early 2005, Pakistan began engaging in negotiations with the various groups in the tribal region rather than military engagement. However this was not in the interest of America who were rapidly losing control over large swathes of Afghanistan based on the support the Taliban were receiving in the tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It was General Musharraf who cut a secret deal with the US in 2006, allowing clandestine CIA operations in Pakistan. Under the agreement, the CIA was allowed to acquire the services of private security firms, including Blackwater (Xe Worldwide) and DynCorp to conduct surveillance on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A senior Pakistani security official told Reuters in 2011: “At the end of 2009, a special presidential order was issued to give 7,000 visas and the same order was passed through the prime minister’s office to Mr. Haqqanis,” referring to Pakistan’s ambassador to the US from 2008-2011, Husain Haqqani. Pakistan’s government issued visas to more than 400 Americans without army security clearances enabling the CIA to boost its presence in Pakistan.

It was during this increasing presence in Pakistan of the CIA that attacks on Pakistani soil in the market places, schools, car bombs, shrine attacks, military bases as well as other civilian targets in densely populated areas, all began to frequently take place. This began to shift public opinion in Pakistan with growing calls for military intervention in FATA and Swat. In fact, before any major military operation taking place by the Pakistan military a corresponding “terrorist” attack would precede it.

With the dramatic rise in the number of American agents in Pakistan corresponding to a rise in the number of bombings and shootings taking place in Pakistan it begged the question what the CIA was doing in Pakistan?, this was exposed with the capture of CIA operative, Raymond Davis in 2011.

Raymond Davis was arrested on January 27 2011 after shooting dead two young motorcyclists at a crowded bus stop in Lahore. It soon came to light he was part of a covert, CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance deep inside Pakistan. Davis was taken into custody with over 158 items which included materials used by spies, which also included photographs of Pakistan’s defence installations. Punjab officials confirmed that: “his close ties with the TTP were revealed during the investigations, Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” with the discovery of mercenaries with tattoos on their backs, this confirmed that the US was active within Pakistan in infiltrating the various groups to ferment unrest. The interrogation of Davis led to the discovery that 330 other personnel were working undercover in Pakistan to ferment unrest.

Despite their being a clear link between the presence of the CIA and its contractors Blackwater (Xe Services) in Pakistan and the continuing bomb attacks, the attacks were used as a basis for the civilian and military leadership to pursue American demands. Those demands included military action in the Northern tribal areas, this shows the conspiracy against the Ummah of Pakistan. The Pakistani government eventually set Davis free as he had fulfilled his role of creating the pretext through which the civilian and military leadership could justify launching wars in the tribal areas.

Another consequence of America’s push for Pakistan’s military engagement with its own people was to create a growing alienation from the central government and increasing calls for independence. A scenario that America has intimated as a possible outcome is the breakup of Pakistan, Professor Michel Chossudovsky discussing the possible balkanisation of Pakistan stated, “The US course consists in fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan. This course of action is also dictated by US war plans in relation to both Afghanistan and Iran.

The brutal massacre of so many children in Peshawar has been possible because the US has found a handful of traitors in Pakistan’s civilian government and military leadership. But they have faced opposition from many sincere officers in the army and from the public at large in launching operations in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas. It is this US war of terror that has caused the market bombs and the loss of so many innocent lives. The removal of the US from the region would end the instability plaguing Pakistan.

Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by

Adnan Khan