GWADAR, PAKISTAN—According to U.S. intelligence sources, Pakistan's intelligence service provided support to pro-Taliban insurgents responsible for the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 40 people. Shocking though Pakistani involvement may seem to some, it is thoroughly predictable, given the worldview and interests of Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Unless we address what's angering the ISI, we won't be able to stabilize Afghanistan or capture al-Qaeda leaders inside its borders.
The war in Afghanistan is part of Pakistan's larger struggle with India. Afghanistan has been a prize that Pakistan and India have fought over directly and indirectly for decades. To Pakistan, Afghanistan represents a strategic rear base that would (along with the Islamic nations of ex-Soviet Central Asia) offer a united front against Hindu-dominated India and block its rival's access to energy-rich regions. Conversely, for India, a friendly Afghanistan would pressure Pakistan on its western border—just as India itself pressures Pakistan on its eastern border—thus dealing Pakistan a strategic defeat.
In the 1980s, India backed the secular pro-Soviet regime of Mohammad Najibullahn in Kabul, and Pakistan backed the mujahideen guerrillas trying to topple him. Because our own strategic interests were aligned with Pakistan's, we encouraged the ISI to support the rebels, many of whom would later become allies of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But in 1991 came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a decade later 9/11. While the world changed for us, the importance of Afghanistan to India and Pakistan remained the same. India still needed to back a relatively secular regime in Kabul, just as Pakistan needed to support Islamic insurgents who wanted to topple it. Thus, our interests are now more or less aligned with those of the Soviets 20 years ago. But rather than repeat their mistakes, we need to strive to prevent Pakistan from turning into the enemy of the American-backed government in Kabul.