Captives of the Taliban
Now that it is confirmed that the pilots and crew from the crash-landed Pakistani helicopter in Logar, Afghanistan are indeed with the Afghan Taliban and, according to the news, “in safe hands”, hopefully their recovery will be a speedy matter. Yet the matter will also raise important and, possibly, disturbing questions for Islamabad. It is already clear that talking to the Afghan government, or even the US command still active in the region, is of little help since the area in question is, for the moment, in complete Taliban control.
Yet President Ghani, very gracefully, offered all the help at his disposal. But Islamabad has also made reference to ‘informal channels’ in the quest to win the crew and pilots’ freedom. And since the Taliban have been pretty quick in their response, that they do have our personnel and are taking care of them, it must be the informal channels that have gone active and brought back a speedy reply. This will, surely, provoke a torrent of questions from the Americans, Afghans, and also the international media. They will ask, once again, about the depth of our contact with the Taliban. If we can get to our own caught people so fast, what else can we really deliver, will be the most-asked question.
Not too long ago Sartaj Aziz finally admitted that Pakistan has indeed harboured senior Taliban and their families for some time; for purposes of influence and leverage, of course. Yet he also said, almost in the same breath, that the leverage was very limited; something which the subsequent breakdown of the Quadrilateral lent credence to. Now some of our friends will wonder how much influence we really exercise, depending on the fate of the seven now held captive in Logar. Surely Islamabad will understand the implications of all that stems from this episode. And hopefully one lesson would be avoiding tapping airspace above hostile alien territory.