There are new developments in Pakistan today. Taliban fighters have moved out of the contested Bruner district 60 miles west of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. It appears to be a victory for the Pakistani government. But can Taliban militants be trusted to keep their pledge to return to the Swat Valley and stay out of Bruner?
Former CIA officer Gary Bernsten says the Taliban “isn’t going anywhere.” He joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.
John Roberts: Would you trust the Taliban to move back and play nice in the Swat Valley?
Gary Bernsten: Not at all. And clearly they may pull back just slightly for reasons of propaganda and to get the film footage. They're not going anywhere. These guys have a desire to seize control of Pakistan. That's the Taliban and other militant organizations. There are at least 25 to 30 militant organizations in Pakistan.
Roberts: Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Pakistan of abdicating responsibility of taking care of the Taliban and other extremist elements. She also pointed some fingers at the United States.
“We're wondering why they don't just get out there and deal with these people. But the problems we face now, to some extent, we have to take responsibility for having contributed to,” Clinton said.
Bernsten: In her statement she also stated the United States created the Taliban or participated in the creation of the Taliban, which is a ridiculous statement. We created and worked with the Mujahideen a decade before that, and they were defeated by the Taliban, which were created by ISI, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of the Pakistani military. And of course, the reason the Taliban were created was because there was a civil war going on among factions of the Mujahideen who had come to power.
Roberts: I think the broader point she was making was that the U.S. disengaged from the region.
Bernsten: The U.S. unfortunately did disengage and we're paying a price for that. One needs to be careful when talking about the forces that are arrayed on the ground there. There are former Mujahideen commanders that are working with the Taliban right now, not because they believe in the seventh-century style of Islam that the Taliban believe in, but because they're ambitious men that want to come back to power. That’s the only reason.
Roberts: She also talked about the threat of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of the Taliban. Pakistan’s prime minister said the nuclear weapons are safe in the hands of the military, but the secretary of state said they're dispersed throughout the country as opposed to being centrally located, which could present a problem. Does that heighten the danger of these weapons falling in the hands of militants?
Bernsten: I don't think you’re going to have a situation where they fall in the hands of the militants. That would only happen if the government completely collapsed and if the military collapsed. I don’t think you’re going to see a military collapse in Pakistan. I think what you're going to see is the likelihood that the civilian government won't survive over the long haul. The military may reassert itself, come back to power and have a violent suppression of the Taliban.
Roberts: You say Pakistan doesn't have the manpower to effectively fight the Taliban because they’re arrayed throughout Kashmir along the Line of Control in the decades-long standoff with India. They're in other areas along the border between Pakistan and India. If India wants to get rid of this problem too, does it bear some responsibility?
Bernsten: The Indians are going to need to assist the Pakistanis by reducing tensions. And the Indians should pull some of their forces off the Line of Control and the border, which is south of that, so that Pakistan itself can reduce its numbers and use those forces inside Pakistan to suppress the Taliban.
Roberts: So you’re saying this is everybody's problem?
Bernsten: Richard Holbrooke was named to be Afghanistan-Pakistan representative. He needs to be the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India representative; because India is going to play into this huge.