Listen to the story.
Jeb Sharp: I'm Jeb Sharp and this is The World. Pakistan is the focus of the latest batch of sensitive diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks. The messages cover many of the issues that contribute to a very tense relationship between Washington and Islamabad, like concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, or Pakistan's cover support of radical militant groups, including the Taliban. Pakistan has denied supporting them, but the latest documents published by Wikileaks show that U.S. diplomats believe that the support from Pakistan is real. New York Times journalist, David Rohde, has had ample firsthand experience in that part of the world. Rohde was kidnapped and held deep inside Pakistan's tribal areas. He says the leaked cables offer insight into the militants of the Haqqani network, the group that abducted Rohde.
David Rohde: These cables confirm what myself and other reporters have suspected for years, and what I saw firsthand on the ground, and that is that Pakistan is aiding the Haqqani network -- a major and one of the most deadly Afghan Taliban factions. And it's sort of been an open secret. The positive side from an American perspective on these cables is that they show that the U.S. government is sort of on top of what's happening in Pakistan, and they do understand the dynamics at work there.
Sharp: But it's all so convoluted. I mean we're giving development aid and Pakistan is turning around and funding these groups. And it isn't clear to me that Washington knows what to do with this policy.
Rohde: Well, it's funny. I'm actually looking at a cable written by Ambassador Anne Patterson who was posted in Islamabad for three years. And it's on this issue of how can we get the Pakistani military to stop supporting the Taliban. And she raises the issue of India. And this is a regional dynamic at work. The reason the Pakistani military is supporting the Taliban is because they think the U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan. It's arch rival India will move into Afghanistan. And that they want the Taliban as their proxies in Afghanistan. They want a friendly government, they don't want a pro-Indian government, and that's why they're backing the Taliban.
Sharp: It's not as if the United States doesn't get any cooperation. Par of what's come out in these cables is that the Pakistani army has been allowing special operations soldiers, U.S. soldiers, to deploy in the tribal areas. And yet that in itself is problematic because there are sovereignty issues about that and presumably a lot of Pakistanis would not like to hear there are U.S. soldiers at work in combat roles inside their territory.
Rohde: Yeah, and in defense of those U.S. diplomats and how complicated and difficult this is, if the U.S. presses too hard publicly, if U.S. troops are sent in on the ground in the tribal areas, that plays into these kind of Jihadist conspiracy theories. And the fears of Pakistanis that the U.S. is just trying to occupy Pakistan. So it's a very delicate balance. The problem is we keep getting these promises from the Pakistani army. This cable as I was mentioning earlier from Anne Patterson says that the commander of the Pakistani military has made it clear that these talk of deadlines and the U.S. leaving the region will mean that Pakistan will increase its support for the Taliban because they feel that they need to you know, prevent India from coming in. And one line from this cable in front of me is "no amount of money will sever that link." She's referring to no amount of American aid will sever the link between Pakistan and the Taliban because they see us abandoning the regions as we did in 1989; and them being left on their own to kind of face India there.
Sharp: Do you see Washington as simply being stuck with this dynamic?
Rohde: I talked recently to a senior American official, and many experts say why aren't we privately -- I think it's not productive publicly to kind of brow beat the Pakistanis, they're proud and legitimately people -- but why aren't we threatening to cut this two billion dollars a year in military aid if they don't act. And the U.S. official said to me that's simply off the table. I think we fear that if we push the Pakistanis too far they won't cooperate with us at all in the tribal area, and you know, there could be an attack in the United States.
Sharp: And another big piece of the picture is the Pakistani nuclear program. An amazing cable in this batch that describes the remarks of a senior intelligence official in the White House saying that despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world.
Rohde: This goes back to the India rivalry. They're producing those weapons to counter India. And the broader problem is that dominance of the Pakistani military in Pakistan. The Pakistani military wants to have an Indian bogey man. They want to constantly play up the threat of India. You know, continuing civilian aid while threatening to reduce military aid, trying to strengthen civilian institutions there, and most of all, trying to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan is what will I think stabilize the region, including Afghanistan.
Sharp: David, I should just ask you how do you see Pakistan as unstable and how much support do you see there for the Taliban?
Rohde: I think that support for the Taliban has dropped dramatically in Pakistan. When they moved close to Islamabad there was real reaction against them and they were blowing up girls' schools. And most Pakistanis don't want to live under them. They sort of see the Taliban as cavemen. They want to sort of a modern, moderate country that's moving forward with the rest of the world.
Sharp: Later in the program we'll speak more with David Rohde and his wife, Kristen Mulvihill about their new book about his abduction. It's called A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides.