Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror

Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror

Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror was initiated by the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These acts were a new manifestation of terrorism, which altogether changed the political psyche of the world. The problem of terrorism, which had been confined to small groups and few states, was changed to a global menace. The Saudi born Zayn al-Abidn Muhammed Hasayn Abu Zubaydah was arrested by Pakistani officials during a series of joint U.S. and Pakistan raids during the week of March 23, 2002. During the raid the suspect was shot three times while trying to escape capture by military personnel. Zubaydah is said to be a high-ranking al-Qaeda official with the title of operations chief and in charge of running al-Qaeda training camps. Later that year on September 11, 2002, Ramzi Binalshibh was arrested in Pakistan after a three-hour gunfight with police forces. Binalshibh is known to have shared a room with Mohamed Atta in Hamburg, Germany and to be a financial backer of al-Qaeda operations. It is said Binalshibh was supposed to be another hijacker, however the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rejected his visa application three times, leaving him to the role of financier. The trail of money transferred by Binalshibh from Germany to the United States links both Mohammad Atta and Zacarias Moussaoui. On March 1, 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested during CIA-led raids on the suburb of Rawalpindi, nine miles outside of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Mohammed at the time of his capture was the third highest ranking official in al-Qaeda and had been directly in charge of the planning for the September 11 attacks. Escaping capture the week before during a previous raid, the Pakistani government was able to use information gathered from other suspects captured to locate and detain Mohammed. Mohammed was indicted in 1996 by the United States government for links to the Oplan Bojinka, a plot to bomb a series of U.S. civilian airliners. Other events Mohammed has been linked to include: ordering the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the USS Cole bombing, Richard Reid’s attempt to blow up a civilian airliner with a shoe bomb, and the terrorist attack at the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has described himself as the head of the al-Qaeda military committee. Amidst all this, in 2006, Pakistan was accused by NATO commanding officers of aiding and abetting the Taliban in Afghanistan; but NATO later admitted that there was no known evidence against the ISI or Pakistani government of sponsoring terrorism. However in 2007, allegations of ISI secretly making bounty payments up to CDN$ 1,900 (Pakistani rupees. 1 lakh) for each NATO personnel killed surfaced. The Afghan government also accuses the ISI of providing help to militants including protection to the recently killed Mullah Dadullah, Taliban’s senior military commander, a charge denied by the Pakistani government. India, meanwhile continues to accuse Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence of planning several terrorist attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in the Indian republic, including the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train bombings, which Pakistan attributes it to “homegrown” insurgencies. Many other countries like Afghanistan and the UK have also accused Pakistan of State-sponsored terrorism and financing terrorism. The upswing in American military activity in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan corresponded with a great increase in American military aid to the Pakistan government. In the three years before the attacks of September 11, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid. In the three years after, the number increased to $4.2 billion, making it the country with the maximum funding post 9/11. Such a huge inflow of funds has raised concerns that these funds were given without any accountability, as the end uses not being documented, and that large portions were used to suppress civilians’ human rights and to purchase weapons to contain domestic problems like the Balochistan unrest.


In 2004 the Pakistani Army launched a campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan’s Waziristan region, sending in 80,000 troops. The goal of the conflict was to remove the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region. After the fall of the Taliban regime many members of the Taliban resistance fled to the Northern border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pakistani army had previously little control. With the logistics and air support of the United States, the Pakistani Army captured or killed numerous al-Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, wanted for his involvement in the USS Cole bombing, Oplan Bojinka plot and the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. However, the Taliban resistance still operates in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas under the control of Haji Omar.

Training ground for European militants

In 2009, a politically instable Pakistan emerged as a new global hub for anti-West militancy, but, because of the constant threat of US attacks, recruits were reportedly more likely to spend their time under instruction and in training than carrying out assertive action. In his report on the matter, focusing on an alarming influx of European extremists, Reuters security correspondent William Maclean wrote, Long a favored destination of British militants of Pakistani descent, Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas are now attracting Arabs and Europeans of Arab ancestry who three years ago would probably have gone to Iraq to fight U.S. forces. With the Iraq war apparently winding down, security sources say, the lure for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West. One consequence: Western armies in Afghanistan increasingly face the possibility of having to fight their own compatriots. He added that the matter was likely to surface in a meeting on May 6 between United States President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the first-mentioned looking to bring an end to the employment of Pakistan’s tribal zones as a launching pad for al Qaeda activity around the world.


The events of September 11 impacted international polices and the regional situation within Pakistan necessitated change to its internal policies. Pakistan found that it had no risk-free options: all polices were full of danger and risk of varying degrees. The test was to adopt such a policy and course of action that could minimize the risk and offered the best possible option in the given circumstances. Geo-strategic location of Pakistan and links with Taliban administration absolved Pakistan to remain unaffected immediately after the attack. Moreover Pakistan was among the three countries, which recognized the Taliban government. Any effort of US and World coalition against Taliban could not have been succeeded without active cooperation of Pakistan. After declaring Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect U.S. President George W. Bush said, “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or with the terrorists.” The Taliban were asked to hand over Osama and close down bases of his Al-Qaeda network or face the consequences. The rest of the world was told that there could not be any neutral party in the war against terrorism. Pakistan, due to its strategic importance and close relation with the Taliban regime, was asked to cooperate. Military President Pervez Musharraf, was told to either abandon the support of Taliban or be prepared to be treated like the Taliban. The military government, due to Pakistan’s compulsions or concerns, Pakistan security and stability from external threat, the revival of economy, its nuclear and missile assets and Kashmir cause decided to join US led coalition on war against terrorism[clarification needed]. So once again, under another military ruler, Pakistan became front line state.


After joining the war on terrorism and abandoning its Taliban policy Pakistan opted for a very crucial and challenging task. Though Musharaf tried skillfully to manage the political dissent inside the country, it so far has found it very hard to manage law and order situation in the country. Pakistan has played a vital role in the war against terrorism. It has been a key ally in this war and suffered a lot. Despite its enormous efforts in war against terrorism, Pakistan has been criticized by the US. It is a fact that US cannot win without Pakistan’s help, as 75 present of US/NATO supplies pass through Pakistan and the country has deployed more than 120,000 of its troops in tribal areas. It has lost more than three thousand soldiers in the war against terrorism. Pakistan has established 1500 checkpoints along the border with Afghanistan, and is the only US ally which has captured or killed more than 700 Al-Qaeda members. Despite all these efforts Pakistan has been blamed for not doing enough.

Effects of Pakistan’s role in the war

1.On the international stage

Pakistan’s role in war against terrorism significantly improved her international status. Scholars[who?] argue that, US would leave Pakistan after gaining her objectives in war against terrorism. After joining the war on terror Pakistan gained billions of dollars of economic and military aid and also made some gains diplomatically but has lost its control over Afghan affairs.

2.Within Pakistan

After September 11 and US invasion in Afghanistan there has been a dramatic rise in domestic terrorism, extremism and sectarianism in Pakistan. Pakistan is in the grip of regular suicide bombings, and has suffered high levels of civilian and military casualties as a result. Baluchistan and Tribal area issues are other implications for Pakistan, with US drones attacks in tribal areas being a real source of concern for Pakistani citizens. The US so far has carried out number of attacks in Pakistani territory. These attacks have led to deterioration of the security situation in tribal areas and the rest of the North-West Frontier Province. In Pakistan there is a growing resentment among people against these attacks on Pakistani soil.

3.Western involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan

On July 8, 2010, Pasha categorically stated that foreign powers are involved in terrorist activities inside Pakistan. He said, “The foreign powers are involved in terrorism and destabilization of the country.” During a briefing in the National Security Committee session headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, DG ISI Ahmed Shuja Pasha said that the western powers are involved in the terror activities inside the country. “The US policy against terrorism is under consideration and the changes will be brought with time in accordance with the national interest,” he said.[14] This is not new claim inside Pakistan, many Pakistani political commentators have been speaking publicly about this phenomenon. It is alleged that terrorist activities inside Pakistan were actively carried out by the CIA, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW – India’s external intelligence agency) and the MOSSAD for different purposes. Chief among those, is changing the public perception of the War on Terror in the favor of the United States. There are confirmed reports that to achieve its objectives the CIA hired the services of at least a dozen Afghan warlords inside Afghanistan and provided through them arms and finances to militants in FATA and Swat to carry out murders and devastation in the country. It was like a double-edged sword not only to get the Army launch attacks against Taliban on Pakistani side of the border but also to give a message to the ISI that the CIA can use the Pakistani Taliban against their own security forces. Thousands of people have been killed in Pakistan due to terror attacks since the beginning of war on terror.

Future concerns

There is no doubt that a military campaign is necessary against extremists in the country but it must be supported by social, economic and political change with political reforms being at the top of agenda. The future of Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism is dependent on its political and economic ties with the US. Pakistan is a part of global war on terrorism and was not only defending itself, but also protecting the entire world form the catastrophe of terrorism and extremism, therefore, needs strategic partnership with the rest of the world to foster peace and stability in the region, promote economic stability and address energy needs.