Jihad Abettors: Our “Marshmallow” Pakistani “Allies”


Earlier I have discussed the re-vitalized jihadist nature of Pakistan since at least Zia ul-Haq’s ascendancy in the 1970s, which engendered, ultimately, the Taliban itself. And regardless of faux, pseudo-secular, Western leaning leaders like Benazir Bhutto, or Musharraf, all Paki leaders foment jihad against Indian Kashmir—which alone creates, permanent, dangerous regional instability. Now a sobering report on our erstwhile “ally” Pakistan in today’s (7/27/08)  Los Angeles Times, highlights these frank outrages almost seven years after the carnage of 9/11/01, which are eerily similar to what was transpiring in pre-9/11/01 Afghanistan:


·        CIA operatives stationed in spartan compounds across the tribal region provide U.S. funding, equipment and intelligence to their Pakistani counterparts. But officials say it is a struggle to persuade the Pakistanis to act. On some CIA bases, “it’s just well known that nothing is going to be done,” said the former CIA case officer who served in the region. “We’d be like, ‘What about this guy? What about that guy? Can we get surveillance? How about targeting him?’” the former officer said. “We’d propose things and [Pakistani officials] would never get back to us.” In other locations, kernels of cooperation have led to occasional arrests or missile strikes on suspected Al Qaeda compounds. But the successes have been fleeting, and the mission unfulfilled.


·        A senior Bush administration official said the National Security Council has spent much of the year debating whether the “Awakening” movement in Iraq’s Anbar province could be replicated in the Pakistani tribal areas. But discussions have bogged down amid skepticism that the model could work. In Anbar, Sunni Arab sheiks fed up with the violence wrought by Sunni insurgents began cooperating with the U.S. military. Local fighters were persuaded to reject the Al Qaeda in Iraq group and join neighborhood security forces paid by the U.S. The effort led to a dramatic decrease in attacks in Anbar, once the most violent area of the country. But the turnaround was aided by the presence of U.S. troops, who weakened Al Qaeda in Iraq and backed up the fledgling patrols. In Pakistan, there are no U.S. forces to support the few tribal leaders who might be willing to ally themselves with the Americans.“There’s never going to be an Anbar Awakening in the FATA because we’re not there,” said a Pentagon official involved in Pakistan policy. “There’s no awakening unless you’re there to help to wake them up.”


·        Compounding the difficulties, American spy agencies depend heavily on cooperation from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, elements of which are believed to have long-standing ties to the Taliban.Underscoring the lack of trust, a former high-ranking CIA official said that the United States typically gives the Pakistani government less than an hour’s notice before launching a Predator missile strike, largely out of fear that more time might allow ISI sympathizers to tip off targets. The ISI sometimes shares information from its network of tribal contacts, officials said. But it also routinely stonewalls CIA requests.“They are in many cases intentionally keeping you in the dark,” said the former CIA official who served in the region. The former official described one case in which a CIA agent near Waziristan, in the tribal area, pressed the ISI over several months to detain a Pakistani who appeared to be helping Al Qaeda operatives move safely around the region.“He was a known Al Qaeda associate and facilitator,” the former CIA officer said. “But you bring it up 10 times and they never take the first step of planning anything. It’s like pushing against a marshmallow.”Al Qaeda and the Taliban have also undermined the CIA’s efforts by cementing their relationships with tribal leaders through inter-marriage, as well as a bloody campaign of intimidation. Several CIA officials said it is common for bodies to be found in the region with a note attached saying “American spy.” Several former CIA officials maintain that few of those killed truly had agency ties, but that the killings scare the local population.


·        According to officials, Bush made his preference clear during a visit to the agency after CIA Director Michael Hayden was sworn in. During a briefing, an agency officer alluded to “dealing with” Bin Laden.Bush interrupted him: “You mean kill him.” But those prospects seem increasingly distant amid political changes in Pakistan that could erode the country’s commitment to U.S. counter-terrorism objectives. In fact, the new government has renewed an effort to strike peace accords with tribal leaders rather than confront them militarily. A similar strategy by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a few years ago helped allow Al Qaeda to regroup, U.S. officials say.


Nearly a decade ago, Yossef Bodansky’s (1999) biography of Osama Bin Laden included  details of what clearly remains Pakistan’s overarching (and duplicitous) policy regardless of the appearances of “Western leaning” Pakistani leaders, and their soothing rhetoric. Referring specifically to the late, much lionized Benazir Bhutto, Bodansky made these observations which US policymakers have continued to ignore at our nation’s peril. Regarding Bhutto’s first term, in 1989:


Islamabad now committed to furthering Islamism in the heart of Asia…Consequently, the [Pakistani intelligence agency] ISI’s support for and sponsorship of sisterly Islamist terrorist movements throughout the Arab world became a cornerstone of Pakistan’s national security policies…Islamabad recognized the growing specter of confrontation with the United States over [its] strategic posture in the region. Still Islamabad shifted to active support for militant Islamism.


Bhutto’s return to power in the fall of 1993, notes Bodansky, despite her “façade of pro-Western and pro-democracy rhetoric,” coincided, not surprisingly, with,


Pakistan’s growing involvement in both the escalation of the war by proxy in Kashmir and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, two movements that still provide shelter to bin Laden [written in 1999, and alas still true today!]…Bhutto’s rise to power, especially in view of her pro-democracy rhetoric, would relax the Western guard so that at least for a while Pakistan would be able to acquire the necessary items…including spare parts for U.S.-made weapons…before a tightening embargo was reimposed….Despite her rhetoric, Bhutto seemed genuinely convinced that the future of Pakistan lay with the Iranian-led Islamic bloc and its activist anti-US posture. By the end of 1993, after her round of visits to Beijing, Pyongyang, and Tehran, Bhutto clearly demonstrated her determination to implement these policies and realize this strategic posture as soon as possible. Markedly increasing Paksitan’s participation in the Islamist international terrorist system was an integral part of Bhutto’s new strategy.





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