The Asianist

Balanced and fact-based analysis of Asian affairs

Posts Tagged ‘pakistan isi

Pakistan Army and ISI Knew About Osama Bin Laden Hideout

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Just yesterday evening, I was debating the extent to which the Pakistani military knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts in his Abbottabad safe house with my Fletcher friends, and the degree to which it can be held responsible as an organization.

As with many things at Fletcher, you often discover somewhere down the line that the current debates you have at the school often coincide in weird ways with future developments. Last night, fresh evidence surfaced by the Press Trust of India via a leaked Stratfor email that elements of the military knew about OBL’s whereabouts. Here’s what Fred Burton, the global intelligence firm’s vice president for intelligence, wrote to his company’s regional director for Middle East and South Asia Kamran Bokhari soon after the US commando operation last May:

Mid to senior level ISI and Pak military with one retired Pak Military General that had knowledge of the OBL (Osama bin laden) arrangements and safe house.

There were about less than a dozen people within the ISI and Pakistani military who had information on bin Laden. No word on the specific names or ranks, but apparently that’s information the US had. The Blackberry email goes on:

Names unk (unknown) to me and not provided. Specific ranks unk to me and not provided. But, I get a very clear sense we (US intel) know names and ranks.

Of course, questions of veracity arise since this is an email exposed via Wikileaks. Stratfor’s CEO George Friedman cautioned in a video on the company’s website yesterday that some of the emails may be “forged or altered to include inaccuracies”, such as his supposed resignation letter.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting insight into an important question by influential experts, and could have saved me and my Fletcher friends a few hours of debate.

What The US Should Not Do About Pakistan

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With the arrests of several CIA informants by the Pakistani government and reports that top generals are demanding that army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani distance himself from the United States, the temptation in Washington will be to lash out at Pakistan for betrayal and take various retaliatory steps. The US Congress House Appropriations Committee, for instance, has decided to withhold most of the billion dollars in aid Washington doles out to Islamabad.

As US officials such as Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen have said and The Asianist has argued before, this is a short-sighted approach. Like it or not, the US needs Pakistan, not just in Afghanistan, but for broader regional stability and security. As in all its relationships, Washington should be prepared to make short-term adjustments to ensure their long-term viability.

The wisest course would be to give Pakistan some room to breathe. Its military and intelligence services have come under harsh criticism in recent months for either being pawns of the United States or incompetent institutions. That seething discontent has built as the list of incidents has widened: the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis after he killed two Pakistanis, a US Navy Seals raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, and a sophisticated terrorist assault on a Pakistani naval base.

In other words, the Pakistani state, in its role as an ally (to whatever degree) of the United States against terrorism, now faces a serious threat from terrorists willing to topple a US stooge amid some of the fiercest anti-Americanism in both the military and among the population. The fate of Gen. Kayani, who is reportedly less anti-American than most of his other colleagues, hangs in the balance.

In such a state of crisis, the logical solution for Pakistan’s military would be to create the perception of distance from the United States to cool some heads and perhaps buy it some bargaining room with terrorist outfits in Pakistan that usually target the United States rather than the Pakistani state.

And that is exactly what it is doing. Its army leadership has offered to reduce its reliance on US military aid and training, set limits on US intelligence operations, and has now arrested CIA informants.

This is no doubt a hard pill to swallow for the United States. But Washington’s main interest right now is to see a return to a stable Pakistan with a military that has regained its footing to be a partner in the future. And the alternative: potential state fragmentation with a paralyzed military, chronic levels of anti-Americanism and sophisticated terrorists in a country with nuclear weapons, is a scary one even to contemplate.

Written by Prashanth Parameswaran

June 16, 2011 at 9:31 am


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