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Jere Van Dyk is a journalist and author who has focused much of his writing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1980s, working as a correspondent for The New[…]

The U.S. should be wary of its “ally” Pakistan, says Van Dyk.

Question: Is Pakistan really our ally?

Jere Van Dyk:  No.  I think that when you look at the rnhistory of Pakistan, when it was formed in 1947, the only country that rnvoted against its being allowed entry into the United Nations was rnAfghanistan, and that had to do with the border region.  In 1948 when rnPakistan was trying to wrest Kashmir from India, it took men from the rntribal areas, Pashtuns, and used them to fight against India as a rnguerrilla force.  And they almost captured Srinigar, the capital.

Realizingrn the power of these Pashtuns, of these tribal men, their fierceness as rnwarriors, their tradition as fighters, and their belief in Islam, they rnused them to create—they were the vanguard in the beginnings and the rnleadership of the Mujahadeen, America's and Pakistan's ally against the rnSoviet Union in the 1980s.  When I returned from Afghanistan in the rn1980s and worked as a consultant for the State Department, and the rnNational Security Council, in the Reagan Administration, the United rnStates and Pakistan took these Mujahadeen, these men that had been rnbrought up to power, and they created a government called the "Afghan rnMujahadeen Government in Exile."  I was their guide when they came to rnNew York to present their credentials to the United Nations.

Whenrn they—when the Mujahadeen disintegrated and began to fight amongst rnthemselves, out of this came the Taliban.  The Taliban in a great many rnways are the sons, and the grandsons, and the younger brothers of the rnmost militant members of the Mujahadeen.  One of the most prominent rnmembers of the Taliban, a man named Hakani, who I lived with in the rn1980's, who had an Arab visit... an Egyptian Army officer come and stay rnwith us, who I later figured out was one of the very beginnings of al rnQaeda.

When this occurred, I began to realize the close ties rnbetween al Qaeda and the Mujahadeen; this man today, Hakani, is one of rnthe leaders of the Taliban.  Only three countries, when the Taliban tookrn over Afghanistan, granted it diplomatic recognition.  Principal among rnthem:  Pakistan.  Secondly, Saudi Arabia.  Thirdly, the United Arab rnEmirates.  No other country in the world.

Pakistan's foreign rnpolicy is to prevent itself from being surrounded by India, afraid that rnIndia would use Afghanistan to surround Pakistan.  It wants to...  In rn2006, Major General Shaukat Sultan, presidential spokesman for Presidentrn Pervez Musharref told me: "All our invasions come from the West."  rnPashtuns feel that the lands inside Pakistan that go all the way to the rnIndus River are theirs.  They do not accept the Durand Line, the border rnbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Not one single legislature in the rnhistory of Afghanistan has ever accepted this border.

The rnPakistani army is comprised of Punjabis, the Pakistani—it's led by rnPunjabis.  The main ethnic —the most populous, and the richest, the mostrn accomplished ethnic group in Pakistan—the bureaucracy of Pakistan is rnrun by Punjabis.  They are at war with the Pashtuns to prevent the rnPashtuns from going back and taking the lands that were once theirs thatrn stretch all the way to the Indus River.

In a meeting I had with rnPresident Karzai he lamented the fact that so many Pashtun lands are nowrn in the hands of Pakistan.  So Pakistan has a geopolitical goal of rnsurrounding India, to prevent itself from being reconquered by the rnPashtuns, and thirdly it wants to, in my view, recreate the Mughal rnMuslim empire... thereby establishing trade relationships with Sunni rnCentral Asia, taking over Afghanistan, to expand it's reach, and finallyrn in order to gain access to the most important resource it needs and is rndesperately in shortage of: water.  All water comes from—the main water rnsources of Pakistan come from India, and they come from Afghanistan.

Question: How worried should we be about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?

Jere Van Dyk: There have been many reports of how the rnUnited States has contingency plans, we have to take over those nuclear rnarms if something were to go terribly awry in Pakistan.  Those arms rnthemselves cannot be directed against the United States.  Pakistan is rntoo far away from the United States.  It's not the Soviet Union, which rnhad missiles that were capable of reaching our soil.

The fact rnthat members of the Pakistani military are deeply religious and would bern aligned with al Qaeda and would try to help those people... help al rnQaeda get those weapons and access to them and therefore help them with rnall their abilities to reach the West, yes, I do think that that's a rnthreat. But I think it's a long-term threat.  I personally don't worry rnabout that.  I think that a far greater threat is the continuation of rnthe war on television, which radicalizes young men in the West like thisrn man who went and tried to do what he did in Times Square.  I think thatrn is a much greater threat to the United States in the short term than rnany nuclear arms falling into al Qaeda.

Recorded June 29. 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller