Monday, May 9, 2011

A Pakistani conspiracy?

The aftermath of the killing of Usama bin Laden highlights the continuing difficulties in the relationship between the US and the nest of vipers known as the Pakistani government.

First, some policy implications and analysis from Walter Russell Mead:

The taking of Osama was a defeat for Al Qaeda.  It was a disaster for Pakistan.
The Assassination in Abbottabad was a strategic catastrophe for the military rulers of this slowly and painfully failing state.  On the one hand, it leaves the reputation of Pakistan as an effective partner against fanatical terror groups in ruins.  The debate in Washington and around the world now is whether the Pakistani state is in league with Al Qaeda or whether it is so weak, divided and incompetent that rogue factions within the state have escaped all control.  The rich intelligence haul the US gathered in Osama’s lair will help the US learn more about Osama’s protectors in Pakistan; in the meantime it is transparently clear that whether incompetence or malfeasance is more to blame, the government of Pakistan cannot safely be trusted — by anyone, on anything.
The argument for a continued US-Pakistani alliance took a body blow.  If Pakistan can’t or won’t help us with the capture of Osama bin Laden, what possible justification does the alliance have?  Arguably, the two people who have done the greatest damage to American interests in the last twenty years have been A. Q. Khan, ringmaster of the nuclear proliferation circus that helped countries like North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran advance their nuclear ambitions, and Osama bin Laden.  What country produced one and sheltered both?
For yet more analysis, there is this New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright.  Wright goes into considerable detail about the apparent failure of US policy in Pakistan, starting with the gross misappropriation of US aid:

After the September 11th attacks, Pakistan abruptly became America’s key ally in the “war on terror.” Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. gave billions of dollars to Pakistan, most of it in unrestricted funds, to combat terrorism. Pervez Musharraf, who served as President between 1999 and 2008, now admits that during his tenure he diverted many of those billions to arm Pakistan against its hobgoblin enemy, India. “Whoever wishes to be angry, let them be angry—why should we bother?” Musharraf said in an interview on the Pakistani television channel Express News. “We have to maintain our security.” Since Musharraf left office, there has been little indication that U.S. aid—$4.5 billion in 2010, one of the largest amounts ever given to a foreign country—is being more properly spent.
The main beneficiary of U.S. money, the Pakistani military, has never won a war, but, according to “Military Inc.,” by Ayesha Siddiqa, it has done very well in its investments: hotels, real estate, shopping malls. Such entrepreneurship, however corrupt, fills a gap, as Pakistan’s economy is now almost entirely dependent on American taxpayers. In a country of a hundred and eighty million people, fewer than two million citizens pay taxes, and Pakistan’s leaders are doing little to change the situation. [...]
Not only has American military aid been wasted, misused, and turned against us; it may well have undermined the Pakistani military, which has feasted on huge donations but is far weaker than its nemesis, the Indian military. If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure. Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies.
To understand some of the dynamics here, keep in mind a description of Pakistan by N.M. Guariglia:
In many ways, Pakistan is three countries in one. There is the civilian government, the military, and the mysterious intelligence service, the ISI. Each party is suspicious of the other, has divided loyalties within, and collaborates with one against the other — thus murky events like the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. By all accounts, the two most powerful men in the country are Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani Army, and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Pasha, head of the ISI. President Zardari is subordinate to the men with the guns.
Guariglia adds, "It stands to reason that at least one of these men, probably two, knew of OBL’s hideout. And at least one, probably two, knew of the U.S. operation to kill OBL."

He suspects somne sort of agreement was reached between the US and Pakistan -- and possibly other parties -- as to the fate of bin Laden and of relations going forward.  Key grafs:

Lt. Gen. Pasha met with CIA Director Panetta on April 11 and Gen. David Petraeus, who is set to take over the CIA, met with Gen. Kayani on April 25. Abbottabad residents are saying the Pakistani military secured and cordoned off the site on the night of the raid, visiting the homes of civilians and asking them to turn their lights off.  “Pakistani military officials said it was impossible for U.S. helicopters to fly to the compound without the knowledge of the Pakistani military,” the report states.
This makes too much sense. Yes, Pakistan was protecting OBL – as they have been, in some capacity, since the 1990s. But when we discovered OBL’s location — thank you Guantanamo, rendition, black sites, waterboarding, and wiretapping –– we probably, and wisely, confronted the Pakistanis about it in secret, just as President Kennedy confronted the Russians about their missiles in Cuba.
We caught the Pakistanis red-handed. And that’s when a deal was made. They said: “Okay, you got us. We will give you an hour of peace and quiet to get your man. But he must be killed.” That’s Angleton’s angle (Ledeen’s): the Pakistanis did not want an interrogation or trial of OBL to expose their goings-on with the rest of al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and so forth. Also, this way the Saudis, the Syrians, the Iranians, and the financier network from the Gulf sheikhdoms would all be protected.
What’s in it for Pakistan? They would rather have the American people angry at them for ostensibly sheltering OBL than their own people angry at them for handing him over. We probably accept that logic. We want their nuclear weapons in secure enough hands. Had the Pakistanis openly captured OBL and handed him over to us, or had they openly participated in the raid, the rest of their jihadist clientele would have turned on them — which would have required Pakistan turning on all of them first. And Pakistan would not want that. Why not? India, India, India.
So Panetta goes on television to say if we tipped off Pakistan about the raid, they’d have tipped off OBL to escape. And voila, Pakistan’s street-cred with the jihadists is covered.
What’s in it for us? Well, we kill Osama and dump him in the ocean. That’s pretty damn good. President Obama gets his “gutsy call,” a Hollywood-style takedown of Public Enemy Number 1. He also avoids an expensive, multi-year political circus about how to interrogate, try, and execute the terrorist mastermind. Additionally, we don’t put our fist in the Pakistani hornet’s nest. Sometimes with policy and intelligence, it’s not so much about what you want to learn as what you don’t want to learn. Knowing too much compels you to change policies, and oftentimes those policies are significantly worse.
If this theory has a grain of truth to it, the remaining questions are obvious. What else did the U.S. and Pakistan agree upon? Foreign aid, “bribe billions,” was no doubt part of it. Was the release of Raymond Davis part of an agreement? Was the nature of a post-U.S. withdrawal Afghanistan part of the discussion? Was the rest of al-Qaeda’s leadership part of the deal, or was the Egyptian-wing of al-Qaeda compliant with the elimination of OBL as the foreign press is speculating? Is this the beginning of a consensus within Pakistan or the beginning of a power struggle?
Indeed, some are claiming that a deal was in place as early as 2001.  But is it a smokescreen for Pakistani perfidy?  The continuing bumbling by the Pakistani government in explaining the presence of bin Laden in Abbottabad is not encouraging:

A senior official in Pakistan’s civilian government told ABC News, “Elements of Pakistan intelligence — probably rogue or retired — were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda,” the strongest public statement yet from the Pakistani government after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
This is based on the government’s judgment that the number of years bin Laden spent in Abbottabad — and it now appears in a village outside the city of Haripur — would have been impossible without help, possibly from someone in the middle tier of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, who grew up fighting alongside the mujahidin against the Soviets, said the official.
According to the official, the military and ISI have been weeding some of them out but many remain.
There have long been sharp divisions between the civilian government and military in Pakistan, and those divisions are now playing out in public.
The Pakistani official also said U.S. officials are demanding the identities of particular ISI agents, in part, as proof the government is truly serious about confronting al Qaeda's supporters on the inside.
And just who are these "rogue or retired" elements of Pakistani intelligence that aided bin Laden? Wright has an idea:

Within the I.S.I., there is a secret organization known as the S Wing, which is largely composed of supposedly retired military and I.S.I. officers. “It doesn’t exist on paper,” a source close to the I.S.I. told me. The S Wing handles relations with radical elements. “If something happens, then they have deniability,” the source explained. If any group within the Pakistani military helped hide bin Laden, it was likely S Wing.
Eight days before Osama bin Laden was killed, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani Army, went to the Kakul military academy in Abbottabad, less than a mile from the villa where bin Laden was living. “General Kayani told the cadets, ‘We have broken the backbone of the militants,’ ” Pir Zubair Shah, the reporter, told me. “But the backbone was right there.” Perhaps with a touch of theatre, Hamid Gul, the former I.S.I. chief, publicly expressed wonder that bin Laden was living in a city with three army regiments, less than a mile from an Ă©lite military academy, in a house that appeared to have been built expressly to protect him. Aside from the military, Gul told the Associated Press, “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, the I.S.I. They all had a presence there.”
Secret deal or not, that request for the names of ISI operatives is cited as another factor in the latest Pakistani outrage:
Amid bitter, recriminatory exchanges between the United States and Pakistan over the Osama bin Laden extermination, planned bilateral visits of President Asif Ali Zardari to Washington DC and a return trip of President Barack Obama to Islamabad are both in jeopardy. Ties between the two sides are expected to slide further following Pakistan's "outing" of the CIA station chief in Islamabad on Saturday.
In a sign of how bad ties are between the two countries, Pakistani media on Saturday once again publicly named the CIA station chief in Islamabad, a breach of both protocol and trust, that is bound to enrage Washington.
A Pakistani TV channel and a newspaper considered mouthpieces of the country's military said the ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha had met CIA station chief Mark Carlton to protest US incursion into Abbottabad to kill al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. CIA station chiefs remain anonymous and unnamed in public although the host government is told.
Earlier, the Obama administration had asked Pakistan to disclose names of its top intelligence operatives to determine whether they had contact with Osama or his agents.
The latest breach indicates that a section of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment is determined to run the CIA out of the country fearing that the ISI's links with terror groups and its sheltering of terrorist leaders will be exposed.
This "military-intelligence establishment" outed Carlton's identity as it fights for its life.  Belmont Club explains the danger to the Pakistanis:

The government of Pakistan, or a rogue element within it, has for some time been waging an undeclared and treacherous war on the United States. Their public responses so far have not been to regret this fact, but to haughtily insist that they be allowed to continue this belligerence undisturbed and, if possible, at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.
They are free to wish for anything they want. But sooner or later history demonstrates that those who wage war in treachery are sooner or later the object of return fire. Unless Pakistan changes its policies, it will eventually provoke a reaction that cannot be deflected by insincere protestations of innocence. And that day will be a day of disaster for Pakistan and its people.
The response will not necessarily come from America. But it will come from somebody. Islamabad has shown a shocking willingness to use force outside its borders. In India. In Afghanistan. In Bahrain. And in downtown Manhattan. It is out of control. Even if it decided to amend its ways, the numerous terror groups it has spawned may yet continue to rampage on their own, like berserk Frankenstein monsters. Pakistan is its own worst enemy.
What happens next? Ace of Spades puts it simply:
This is going to get very ugly. It will be bad for America, but it will be worse for Pakistan.
At some point, they can no longer be permitted to wage a coward's war on their own terms. If they want to ride the tiger, they should be made to ride the goddamned tiger.

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