On the Radar
What if the United States has been waging the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the last 13 years in Afghanistan?
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade covering Afghanistan since 2001, concludes just that in her new book, “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014.”
Gall told “On the Radar” that Pakistan – not Afghanistan – has been the United States’ real enemy.
“Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages,” Gall said. “The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan.”
Gall said she first had the realization that Pakistan was fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan “very soon” after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I went to Quetta and found Taliban resting up there and regrouping,” she said. “They had assistance, some of them talked about being forced and threatened and told to go in and fight the Americans … and when you're there, on the ground, seeing every bombing, the suicide bombing had started, the insurgency that grew, and you investigate where it's coming from, it kept leading back to Pakistan.”
Gall said that Pakistan’s leaders, and especially former President Pervez Musharraf, were “very clever” and tricked the United States into believing that Pakistan was an ally.
“I think the politicians, not all of them, but the diplomats … it took ages for them to understand that actually the persuasion wasn't working; the engagement wasn't bringing them on board; they were actually double dealing,” she said. “And now diplomats will tell you very plainly, ‘Yes, Musharraf was double dealing.’”
Perhaps the biggest betrayal of all in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, and one that came as no surprise to Gall, was the fact that bin Laden found shelter in Abbottabad, Pakistan, for six years before he was killed in a Navy SEAL raid in 2011. And, according to Gall, Pakistan’s government was orchestrating his protection.
“Pakistan did know,” Gall said, speaking about bin Laden’s location. “They were hiding him, they were handling him. Someone on the inside told me this. They had a special desk that knew where bin Laden was.
“Not only that, but put him there, protected him, oversaw him, handled him in the terms of the secret intelligence services,” she added. “And it's all deniable, but I’m told the top bosses knew.”
Despite the awareness of Pakistan’s “double dealing” today, Gall said that relations with Pakistan are no better now than in the past.
“Our relations with Pakistan have gone back to the same thing, and the thing that concerns me is that Zawahiri is still out there, in Pakistan, I believe,” she said. “He is also probably being hidden the same way and protected.”
For more of the interview with Gall, including her concerns for the future of Afghanistan as foreign military assistance is withdrawn, check out this episode of “On the Radar.”
ABC News’ Tom Thornton, Alexandra Dukakis, Chris Carlson, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.