the Afghan campaign started in October 2001, the US has made extensive
use of Pakistan as a forward base for intelligence operations. Recognizing
that this has endangered the Pakistani government's popularity at home
and throughout the Islamic world, the US continues
rewarding it monetarily while strongly endorsing President Pervez
Musharraf, who took power in an October 1999 military coup. This week,
visiting US officials re-affirmed
their support for Musharraf even as he authorizes new missile
tests sure to provoke arch-enemy India.
Dangers of Success
CIA and FBI are now entrenched in Pakistan, gathering intelligence on
terrorist whereabouts and directing the Pakistani military to perform
highly dangerous operations against Taliban fighters on the Afghan border.
The last such raid occurred Wednesday, when the authorities "cracked
down" on 2 tribes
with alleged al Qaeda links. Last week saw a major operation,
in 8 Taliban killed and 18 captured (though other
sources claimed a higher body count). The Pakistani security forces
have become America's proxy army and they aren't very happy about it.
American success in Pakistan may be endangering its future operations
there as well as Musharraf himself. (After all, a president brought
to power by the military can also be deposed by the military). In the
end, it is not the enraged Islamic mobs that could ruin America's anti-terrorist
activities in Pakistan. However, an offended military could, like a
coiled snake, become more dangerous when feeling vulnerable.
Provocations Well-Timed or Tactless?
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage caused
great displeasure when he diplomatically stated, "I do not think
that affection for working with us extends up and down the rank-and-file
of the Pakistani security community."
to this, the Pakistanis then did something rather unusual last Thursday,
on a field trip of sorts, to watch the carnage wrought by Pakistani
Special Forces against Taliban militants. According to AFP, in direct
response to American criticisms
and local media were whisked by army helicopter from Islamabad to a
deadly operation on the wild northwest frontier with Afghanistan, to
witness Cobra gunships and Pakistan's toughest commandos smash an al-Qaeda
and Taliban hideout. Eight fighters were killed and 18 captured.
was the first time Pakistan's army gave journalists a front-seat at
an al-Qaeda operation, and it coincided both with Prime Minister Zafarullah
Jamali's visit to Washington and US Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage's scheduled arrival in Pakistan."
Command chief John Abizaid, known for his recent role in Iraq, arrived
Monday in Islamabad, as did Armitage and his assistant for South
Asia, Christina Rocca. The latter two had spent Sunday in Afghanistan.
The level of Pakistani "cooperation" was high on the list of topics
Strategy: Monitoring the Afghan Border
the FBI operates cells throughout Pakistan, the chief focus is the western
border with Afghanistan. This is frequently described as being "lawless,"
"inhospitable," "anarchic" and "tribal." The mountainous border is hundreds
of miles long and effectively
impossible to control. President Musharraf recently told ABC that,
"…sweeping and searching the entire area would
require the whole Pakistani army." With chronically simmering
tensions in Kashmir, this is a luxury Pakistan can't afford.
the dangers and occasional setbacks, the US and Pakistani governments
have enjoyed some successes. However,
as Newsday reminds,
border is not where the highest-ranking al-Qaida leaders captured in
Pakistan so far have generally been tracked down. Abu Zubaydah, considered
one of bin Laden's top lieutenants, was nabbed in a joint U.S.-Pakistani
raid in March 2002 in Faisalabad, about 150 miles south of Islamabad.
Ramzi Binalshibh, suspected of helping plot the Sept. 11 attacks, was
caught after a shoot-out in September 2002 in Karachi, a main Pakistani
port on the Indian Ocean. And Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in
Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. None of those cities
is within 75 miles of the Afghan border."
and its director, Robert Mueller, have largely been exempt from the
kind of criticism that the CIA and director
George Tenet have perhaps unfairly
received recently. This may have to do with the fact that the FBI answers
to powerful Justice Department head and close Bush ally John
Ashcroft whose own pre-9/11 criticisms
of the Bureau have been forgotten. Although fighting terrorists
abroad is not in the FBI's traditional purview, in Pakistan it seems
to be doing the CIA's job perhaps too well.
what the "clash of civilizations" crowd might assume, the current displeasure
of Pakistani security forces only heightened by Richard Armitage's
blunt accusation is not primarily religious-based. Rather, as an institution
the ISI is feeling embarrassed. The once all-powerful agency feels,
quite rightly, that the US has muscled in on its territory. According
provocative recent article from the Asia Times, the FBI "fingerhold"
in Pakistan has now been turned into
vice-like grip through an ever-expanding network that has infiltrated,
to various degrees, Pakistan's armed forces, the police and intelligence
agencies… the FBI cells have established direct control over the law
enforcing agencies, such as the police, who take orders from FBI agents.
In return, they are believed to be handsomely rewarded financially.
The ISI is aware of who is on the FBI's payroll, but can do little about
the Soviet-Afghan conflict the CIA was relegated to Islamabad. The agency
provided cash and weapons, whereas the ISI worked directly with the
Afghan mujahideen. This time around, the FBI is working "autonomously,"
from nationwide headquarters, and is equipped with communications tracking
devices and eavesdropping equipment. High-level officials are now expressing
their unhappiness with this situation:
to one ISI person posted in Karachi, who requested not to be named when
talking to Asia Times Online, 'After September 11, 2001, we were given
instructions to work along with FBI operators. Initially they were given
a room in the ISI's operations office. They used to give commands to
us, and we had to obey them. For instance, once they asked us to send
a packet somewhere. We packed it and informed them that the parcel was
ready. They unpacked the parcel and asked an ISI employee to repack
it in front of them. This is the way the FBI operators showed their
domination over the ISI staff. At first they asked us to coordinate
in operations. Later on they were given a separate place of work, then
they cultivated local police officers, and several times they did not
bother to inform the ISI about their operations.'"
examples of American interference in Pakistani security affairs only
amplify these concerns:
to well-placed sources in the Pakistani intelligence community, some
the country's former clandestine operations have now been curtailed,
such as one involving the national carrier, Pakistan International Airline
(PIA). PIA was once extensively used for "back-channel diplomatic activities",
such as shifting missiles under the cover of routine cargo. But under
heavy US pressure, PIA's reservation system is now hosted in Texas through
the Sabre Group, and the movement of each and every passenger is carefully
monitored, as is the cargo."
flight details are being run from stateside. The FBI now also has the
ability to monitor all transactions sent to and from private Pakistani
accounts something which even the Pakistani government itself cannot
legally do. A Pakistani banking official took a more philosophical line
on this policy than most Americans would, stating that the illegal action
"…is the price we have to pay for ensuring that a useful channel like
remittances is not abused by people bent on creating upheavals."
isn't the first time that Pakistani security officials have expressed
their displeasure. On 28 April 2002, disgruntled former ISI chief Hamid
Gul revealed that the FBI has 16 offices throughout Pakistan. As a result,
claimed one newspaper, "the US will increase its interference in the
northern areas of Pakistan, which will lead to (the) complete slavery
of the region."
Gul told CNN in September that the bombing campaign was "a
total failure in strategy":
(Americans) should have asked Pakistan to continue our contacts with
the Taliban…we would have found OBL (Osama bin Laden). But now it is
very difficult. It is like searching for a needle in a haystack."
perhaps a less bombastic approach would have been more fruitful. However,
the opposite strategy was employed, and now its logical conclusion may
have been reached
reprinted by the Asia Times, claimed to be "doing the rounds,"
is a direct threat to President Musharraf not from the masses,
but from his own security forces. The letter, which claims to be from
Pakistan's "full colonels," calls on parliament to overturn Pervez Musharraf
"and his handpicked gang," who have turned Pakistan "from the fort of
Islam into a slaughterhouse of the Muslims." The letter demands an inquiry
into the 1999 coup, insinuating that Musharraf owes his presidency to
corrupt Supreme Court justices. It also claims that prior to the US
invasion of Afghanistan high-ranking army officers were awarded large
parcels of land by the government. Could this by a sign of rumblings
and other ominous developments led Richard Armitage this week to hastily
reverse his previous denunciations. On Monday, he attempted to smooth
things over, saying that the US-Pakistan relationship was solid. Simultaneously,
a strong statement was made that the military
fully backs Musharraf. A day later, Prime Minister Mir Zafurallah
Khan Jamali just back from Washington also announced that everyone
a group of 5
US senators visited and "commended" Pakistan's participation in
the war on terror. But does such a mad scramble for controlling the
damage have other implications? After all, on Tuesday the administration-friendly
Washington Times claimed that the US still
suspects the ISI of aiding Taliban fighters.
Afghanistan: From Bad to Worse?
week, French journalist Giles Jacquier armed with a secret camera, discovered over 50 Taliban fighters
near Khost, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border:
Jacquier, a seasoned newsman, said that his visit to Khost was one of
the scariest he'd ever undertaken as a journalist, and that all activity
in and around the tribal homelands on both sides of the border with
Afghanistan presented, in his eyes, 'permanent danger' for Pakistan,
because it was not under 'government control.'"
border" issue has been used as a
tacit point of leverage for the Americans, holding Musharraf in
line through the agency of Hamid Karzai, Afghan "president." Karzai
is America's proxy diplomat, while both the Afghan and Pakistani armies
have become two flanks of America's proxy military.
grumblings in the Pakistani ranks are not the only problem for the US
today. Bloody factional fighting
between powerful warlords has erupted again in the north, and Taliban
attacks are set to
increase dramatically, says the US as
was proven Thursday. In the end, America's heavy ongoing intervention
in the region could prove its undoing. The US may have to rethink the
character of its involvement in Pakistan if it wants even to maintain
the status quo in a country that
remains highly volatile.
a detailed new report suggests, the US is now trapped in the middle
of a highly combustible and eminently predictable regional power struggle:
and Afghan intelligence officials in Kandahar claim that Pakistan's
intelligence agencies are once again covertly backing the Taliban resurgence
as they did in the 1990s. Islamabad strongly denies such charges, but
it is clear that President Pervez Musharraf and the Army wants to retain
influence in the Afghan Pashtun belt and the Taliban are its only allies
to do so. Pakistan also wants to challenge India's influence in Kabul
and restrain the powerful former Northern Alliance. If leading US officials
such as Armitage are prepared to turn a blind eye to these policies,
it is clear too many Afghans and Pakistanis will suffer the backlash
from supporting another round of extremism."
have said all along, it's much easier to get into such a situation than
to get out. But the US, overconfident that it could arbitrate peace
and impose democracy, has now gotten itself firmly stuck, between Pak
and a hard place.