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Double Games Galore

by Newsweek Pakistan

Massoud Hossaini—AFP

Finding conspiracies in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has once again returned to the limelight, this time claiming the U.S. has links with the Islamic State militant group and is supplying weapons to it. On Oct. 10, he said: “The U.S. Army helicopters are used to provide assistance to I.S. terrorists.” This isn’t the first time he has alleged this. In April, he derided the militants as a “tool” of America. Needless to say, it has media abuzz in Pakistan, which the U.S. often accuses of playing a double game, i.e., pretending to fight terrorism while sheltering militants that terrorize populations across the Durand Line.

I.S. has inspired attacks within Pakistan by radicalizing youth to its code of savagery in the name of Islam. Both boys and girls have gone to Syria to train for this “jihad,” owing partly to the copious funding I.S. appears to posses. While recent reports have noted that this money is drying up, I.S. has in the past relied on revenue from oil wells in territory under its control—brought to market by dubious middlemen of the global oil trade. America, meanwhile, has seemed double-minded about I.S. because of its polarity of conflict with Russia, which targets I.S. and defends Syria’s embattled Asad regime. In Afghanistan, too, this polarity has developed in recent times as news of Russia backing the Afghan Taliban has been confirmed in many quarters.

America’s backing of I.S. kills many birds with one stone. This double game opposes Russia and Iran in Iraq-Syria, and opposes Russia and Pakistan eastward. Pakistan has been steadily accused of playing the double game with America by providing safe haven to the Haqqani Network aligned with the Afghan Taliban. In a 2009 interview given to a London-based Arab journal Asharq Al-Awsat, former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General Hamid Gul had boasted that he had “sent his two sons to jihad along with the Afghan jihadi leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.”

There are other double games in the region to consider: President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has welcomed Hamid Gul’s favored warlord Hekmatyar to Kabul, copying Iran’s earlier double game when it kept Hekmatyar in Tehran and allowed safe passage to the greatest Shia-killer of all, Al Qaeda’s Musab al-Zarqawi, from Pakistan to Iraq. All these double games, however, have recoiled on the players so far.

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