Jihadists Have Become the Pakistani Frankenstein’s Monster

On January 30, a suicide bomber killed 101 people, most of whom were policemen, at a mosque in Peshawar. The attack was likely the work of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), a sister organization of the similarly named group that now rules Afghanistan. As Husain Haqqani explains, the TTP’s current power—and the serious terrorist threat Pakistan now faces—is the result of extensive support it and other Islamist groups have received from the Pakistani government:

After the success of the Afghan mujahideen in driving out the Soviets—with U.S. support—Pakistan’s security services mobilized similar ideologically motivated groups to try to force India out of long-disputed Kashmir. Pakistani jihadists fought in the civil war in Afghanistan that followed the collapse of the Soviet-backed regime from 1992 to 1996, and later alongside the Taliban beginning in 2001. (Pakistan supported the Afghan Taliban regime in the 1990s.)

Islamist groups recruiting in Pakistan cited hadith—traditions and sayings attributed to the prophet Mohammed—that prophesied a great battle in the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan’s security services expected that radicalization through religion could help break the deadlock over Kashmir and empower Pakistan’s allies in Afghanistan. The strategy instead made Pakistan a battleground of competing interpretations of radical Islamist ideas. In the last 30 years, Pakistan has supported some jihadist groups and tolerated others, while also participating in the United States-led war against terrorism.

This juggling act has eroded Pakistan’s international standing and led some jihadist factions to target Pakistan’s military and security forces, occasionally inviting retaliation. When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021, Islamabad saw Kabul’s new regime as a potential close ally. After 2001, Pakistan continued to cultivate the Taliban as a counterweight to more liberal United States-backed factions; these were seen as too closely aligned with India.

Pakistan’s security services and some politicians, including Khan, have advocated a nuanced approach to the TTP and other militant groups, suggesting the groups reflect Islamic aspirations that need not be seen as inimical to Pakistan. But events have repeatedly proven that compromise with armed and violent radical Islamist groups is impossible.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Afghanistan, Jihadism, Pakistan, Taliban, War on Terror

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy