H/T to Unredacted at the National Security Archive for a very timely find on this week's Document Friday.
It's a State Department INR memo to the SecState dated November 7, 2001, reporting that "urban Pakistanis" polled immediately after 9/11 supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan at greater levels than before. In fact, almost half of respondents favored increasing support to the Taliban.
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.”
In a week when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff accused the Pakistani government of supporting the Afghan Taliban, it is sobering to realize how deep and pervasive popular support for the Taliban runs in Pakistan.