By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 18, 2009
SP: Chief Zazai, last week we were talking about Pakistan and you said there were in fact four Pakistans: the bureaucrats who are always in power, the current elected government, the army, and finally what you called the “Shadowy government” of ex-ISI and army officers who exert tremendous unseen influence.
This week let’s get local and focus on your home district, the Zazi Valley in Paktia province in Afghanistan, where you are the paramount chief of eleven Pashtun tribes. You have said in previous interviews that within your valley, well-known to all residents, are a number of agents and officials who “have been on the payroll of the Pakistani ISI for thirty years.” Can you tell us more about these men? What is their agenda? Are they supporting the Taliban and other insurgents?
Chief Zazai: The Zazi valley has tremendous strategic significance because it lies on the porous border with Pakistan’s Kurm Agency, Tirah Orakzai and Waziristan. It is located on the southeast corner of the Tora Bora Mountains. During the Russian occupation, Zazi was called the “Gateway to Afghanistan” and still holds this unique position. Many insurgents cross back and forth almost daily and unfortunately within the Zazi valley the Taliban have some die-hard sympathizers as well as some who are there to facilitate their movements within the valley and around. Strategically, Zazi has been kept fairly quiet and not a war zone because this is the gate–and if the gate gets the heat, there will be a deployment of more U.S. troops in Zazi which means the gates will be shut.
I formed the TPF (Tribal Police Force) in June ‘09. Initially I needed to protect my chiefs while they were busy campaigning to unite all the tribes in Zazi, Danda Pathan and in Khost because in the same day three innocent local tribesmen were beheaded by Taliban fighters, including a religious scholar who denounced suicide bombings as un-Islamic. The next day people found the scholar beheaded and his eyes were taken out and his ears were cut in the corridor of his house. Then there was a shooting involving the Border Police soldiers, which resulted in three dead and 4 injured. Later the Mullah of that particular village refused to give these soldiers a religious burial. These events sent us an alarming sign, so therefore I immediately appointed a veteran leader, Amir Mohammad, to be our security head and ordered a group of 30 armed men to start protecting the chiefs and the Unity movement. As threats grew, we increased the number. We now have 85 armed Zazi tribesmen serving and protecting their own people. Amir Mohammad and the senior officers of the Tribal Police Force have survived two IED attacks and many ambushes. So, to answer your question, who are these insurgents? Are they coming from Pakistan or are they living within the Zazi Valley?
These insurgents are living within the Zazi Valley. We have identified their commanders and members and they are not more than 35 men. Can one imagine that only 35 men are intimidating the lives of over 250,000 people?
SP: So then you actually know who these individuals are?
Chief Zazai: My Commander, Amir Mohammad, has provided a list and locations of these insurgents to the commanding officer of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division based in Ali Khell in the Zazi Valley. So far we have not heard that they have arrested or questioned these men.
In the Zazi Valley, there are four Pakistani nationals who are based there now and have been for many, many years. They have been lately spotted by our Intel guys filming the U.S. troops when they move around and are busy collecting intelligence about everything. One is a medical doctor, the other is a medicine man (a seller of homeopathic medicine), the other is a Mullah (this man speaks openly against the U.S. and all Infidels), and the fourth one is attached to the medical doctor and is just there.
Yes, there are a few Local Zazi men who have been in the payroll of the Shadowy government of Pakistan (ISI) for almost thirty years and two of these men are warlords. They hold high political office in the current government. They are in positions of trust. The Pakistani Shadowy ISI government and these Afghan warlords do not want to see the tribes–meaning the local village people–become united with the U.S. Army in the fight against the Taliban insurgents, because they are too well aware that if this happens, this will be the end of Taliban and insurgents in Afghanistan. That’s why they are against my Tribal Police Force program and will do anything to dissolve it and stop it.
SP: How do the local people in Zazi feel about these men that you say have been on the payroll of the Pakistani ISI? Has anything been done to bring charges against them or to drive them out? If not, why not?
Chief Zazai: It is not a problem for the Zazi Tribal Council to simply drive these men out of the Valley, but so far–on the contrary–people are trying to drive us out! I will not name names in this public forum, but let’s just say that these forces have been able to convince certain well-meaning and hard-working but unfortunately misinformed U.S. officers that they are the good guys and have painted our Zazi tribesmen as the opposite. The U.S. is the power on the ground and unfortunately these shadowy forces have been able so far to manipulate this power.
SP: What is your opinion of American policy toward Pakistan in general? If you could advise President Obama on how best to deal with Pakistan from the point of view of resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, what would you tell him?
Chief Zazai: Bring Pakistan to become honest in their dealings with the world.
SP: I’d like to ask you about the Quetta Shura Taliban. Quetta, as we know, is a city in Pakistan–and a major sanctuary for Afghan insurgents. What exactly is the Quetta Shura? Is it being protected by the Pakistani government and if so, why?
Chief Zazai: The Quetta Shura is the supreme command of the entire Mullah Omar Taliban movement. But let’s not here mix the structure of the insurgents with their leadership. To understand the insurgents’ structure, we have to pay serious attention to the players and groups involved, who might share a single agenda as it pertains to fighting the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, but who also have their own separate and conflicting future agendas and designs. The overall Taliban body is composed of Mullah Omar’s movement (in other words, the Quetta Shura), the Hezb-i-Islami movement of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and al-Qaeda. Some people would argue that AQ and the Taliban are separate, but I believe Taliban and AQ are like a soul and the body. There is also the Haqqani network which, though it enjoys deep contacts and relations with the Shadowy Pakistani government of the ISI and is very powerful and active within Afghanistan, is still under the leadership of Mullah Omar. Haqqani headquarters are based inside Pakistani soil. Mr. Sarajuddin Haqqani enjoyed great friendship with the late Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud [killed recently in a U.S. drone attack] and I believe still enjoys the friendship and backing of his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud.
The Quetta Shura is fully protected by the Shadowy Pakistani government of the ISI. I think nowadays we hear this on the news all over that even though the Pakistani Army is fighting insurgent groups in Waziristan that they are only fighting the Pakistani Taliban and not the Afghan Taliban. So it is clear that these Afghan Taliban (Mullah Omar’s movement and al-Qaeda) are protected and supported by the Shadowy Pakistani government of the ISI.
Why are they not shutting these headquarters down? Well, as I have said earlier, the Shadowy government of Pakistan has its agenda and designs. I believe the U.S. and all NATO countries should seriously come to the bottom of this double-standard policy. I believe through meaningful dialogue with the heads of the Pakistani Army and former Pakistani Army generals this matter could be resolved more fruitfully.
There certainly is not a location or a signboard that says “Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Quetta Shura Headquarters.” I believe their meeting places are secret locations, as they change their tempo based on the day to day situation and affairs. Therefore I do not believe anyone would guess where exactly the Quetta Shura is located. Is it inside Quetta, is it in Karachi, is it in Peshawar, is it in Islamabad or is it inside Afghanistan?