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Document Friday: State Department Poll in Pakistan Showed “Strong and Growing Public Support for Taliban”… IN NOVEMBER 2001.

September 30, 2011

US and Pakistani differences of opinion.

This week, we heard chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen proclaim that the Haqqani Network was “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and that Pakistan was “exporting violence” to Afghanistan; we read that many Pakistanis blame the United States –not Al Qaeda– for the suicide attacks within their country; and we were provided with the most convincing evidence yet that Pakistan’s endgame may be to use the Afghan Taliban as its proxy against India after America withdraws from the region.

These developments should not have been surprises.  Read this cable to the Secretary of State from the Head of the Department of State Bureau for Intelligence and Research.  Then note the date it was written.  Then either laugh or cry.

... November 7, 2001

This jarring document (assuming the survey results are even close to correct) was originally published by Barbara Elias, director of the Archive’s Afghanistan, Pakistan and Taliban Project in her electronic briefing book: Pakistan: “The Taliban’s Godfather”? I hadn’t seen the memo until this week– I guess the document gods have a sense of humor.

The survey was conducted amongst “urban Pakistanis,” beginning “shortly after September 11” 2001 and “almost all interviews” were conducted before the United States started bombing Afghanistan.  In other words, the window that a westerner would assume that Pakistanis would probably have had the absolute lowest amount of support for the Taliban.

Not the case.  The survey asked:  “As you may know, our [Pakistani] government has been generally supportive of the Taliban government in Afghanistan.  In the future, would you like to see our government strengthen its support for the Taliban, reduce its support, or maintain support for the Taliban at about the same level as now?”

The vast majority –46 percent– favored “increasing support for Mullah Omar’s regime.”  Only a paltry 14 percent favored reducing support.  The INR concluded that the Pakistani public “saw the Taliban more favorably than it had before the September 11 attacks.”  And that Pakistanis “believed by a sizable majority that the Taliban are not a threat to stability in the region and that Pakistan’s ties with the Taliban are good.”

Ford’s memo to Powell called these startling opinions –“that [went] far beyond the minority of extremist Muslims”–  “General Musharraf’s problem.”  Of course, Musharraf is long gone.  The groundswell of Taliban support within Pakistan was –and is now– very much the United States’ problem.


A few other (perhaps) related statistics:

The most recent poll I could find on public opinion in Pakistan was conducted by the Pew Research Center in June 2011.  Here’s a question that jumped out at me:  “Is it a good or a bad thing Osama bin Laden is dead?”  Bad thing: 55%; Good thing: 14%; Don’t know: 32%.   

Some stats on Afghanistan from a DOD power point presentation that I wrote about a while back.

Iraq is an advanced societ. Afghanistan is not.

The CIA estimates that the literacy rate in Afghanistan is 28 percent (males: 43 percent, females 12 percent).

In 2010 Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, head of the NATO-led effort to train the Afghan national security forces for incoming Afghan army and police recruits estimated that only about out 14 percent to 18 percent of Afghan army and police recruits could read.

And finally, on the heels on the US drone strike that killed US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki on Yemeni soil, I attempted to find some stats on the Yemeni public opinion towards him.  They were scarce, but I was able to find this 2011Yemen Stability Survey by Glevum Associates, a firm that supports “decision makers engaged in combat operations.” (Whatever that means.)  Here is by far the scariest statistic:

"Overall, the most popular figure in Yemen is Anwar al-Awlaki..."

Well, at least we can always fault the methodology.

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