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Floundering Pakistan

July 27, 2010

Pakistan implicated in todays Wikileaks Reports

Pakistan implicated in todays Wikileaks Reports

Pakistan is in desperate need of a plumber to fix the leak on the front page of the New York Times this morning. The article has one of strongest suggestions yet that the Inter Services Intelligence Agency aids the enemy in Afghanistan and is rooted in reports made available by the whistler blower organization, Wikileaks. The reports entitled the “Afghan War Diaries” purport that the Pakistani ISI provides haven, if not supports Al Qaeda comes from “unverified” sources most likely “aligned with Afghan” intelligence and “paid informants”. The New York Times piece provides examples of how a suggestion of Pakistani aiding insurgents could be accurate, and leaves only a brief disclaimer that nothing is yet certain. Rather, the story more strongly asserts:

Senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed

“No doubt” is an alarming allegation against a critical ally in this war and a bit sensational in the absence of a closer reading of Pakistan’s realities and motivations.

What seems more likely than “no doubt”, is something I’ve stated previously. Both Ideology and what Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson said are “ground realities” run directly counter to the suggestion that the ISI rampantly supports insurgent groups against American interests.

Quite simply, insurgent groups including Al Qaeda are deeply comprised of remnants from the Soviet Afghan war, meaning former fighters we engaged the ISI to train, maintained links to “freedom fighters” who ultimately became extremist groups we combatted post 9/11. That engagement created a decade long window in which there was little instruction or immediate opportunity and to some extent, interest for Pakistan to eradicate insurgents in its neighboring country. Couple this with the fact that Pakistan shares a nebulous border with Afghanistan as it became haven to one of the worlds largest refugee problems with Afghans fleeing Soviet atrocities, and you’ve got a battle hardened, impoverished, and an armed influx of an outside population who call major cities like Karachi, home.

So when we hear about the “Af-Pak Quagmire”, one should really be thinking in terms of the pickle Pakistan got into when millions of refugees made Pakistan’s underdeveloped, politically volatile and vastly feudal state home as the Cold War ended.

This climate allows us to put the Wikileaks reports into perspective. Firstly, reports linking ISI aid to insurgents could likely be referring to former Pakistan intelligence officials who maintained ties to insurgents as Afghans became part of the fabric of Pakistani society. Secondly, although these groups made Pakistan their home, the arms and influx of drugs via Afghanistan, never ceased. An infamous Klashinkov culture pervades Karachi amongst other places, including the now well-known FATA areas.  So with such imbedded presence in Pakistan, obliterating Afghani insurgents becomes a highly sensitive task.

I rarely point to ideology as a driver of action when it comes to government behavior, but as Afghan’s made their home in Pakistan, they came sharing religion and some aspects of culture which intensifies the complexity of hunting down terrorists because it leaves Pakistan open to the possibility of a civilian uprising. Certainly Afghans would have preferred we “negotiate” rather than wage full scale war post 9/11 to settle differences. And I will not argue whether or not that would have been wise, however, the point is that the

ISI may be dealing with insurgents in vastly different ways, wheeling and dealing as opposed to obliterating them with the force we might use because of a profound risk involved in alienating an enormous, and internal Afghan presence within Pakistan’s border.

Since 9/11 Pakistan has descended into civlian chaos at certain intervals with extremists growing polarized, gravitating toward insurgents as we intensified our offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So our expecations must take these realities into account and the Wikileaks reports understood within that context.

Ultimately, a lesson we might learn from the Wikileaks story is that negotiating with extremist groups for Pakistan is inevitable. General McChrystal’s Counterinsurgency strategy was moving in that direction as it called for U.S. engagement for the long haul requiring additional years in time, toil, troops, and treasure; which is an increasingly unpopular idea. So will the Wikileaks reports be the “game changer” or this wars equivalent to the “Pentagon Papers” for it’s suggestions that our engagement of Pakistan in providing billions in aid has been not only counter productive but comes in addition to our own mishandlings of the war thus far?

Perhaps. But either way, Pakistan is in desperate need of one skilled plumber to fix this leak.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for writing in such timings.

    This issue will go away in a week or so. All this is just Media frenzy.

    One day one American top politican says that Pakistan is doing a good job, and then next day another top politician says that Pakistan has ties with Taliban. I have been noticing this for months now!!

    All this has an objective that is far beyond our understanding and our comprehension. Only few on the top knows the reasons of the word play!!

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    • You said it well: one day there’s positive rhetoric, the next day it’s flipped.

      You know Special Envoy Holbrooke in a recent interview in the New Yorker indicated there was a high level of disagreement in the Obama administration in handling this ear. At all levels, there was poor communication and even an undermining of one another’s efforts because of differing perspectives on how to handle the “AF-Pak” situation…..the changing rhetoric may be a direct reflection of those differences.

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  2. […] Zainab Jeewanjee wrote a concise post at her blog that I suggest reading. […]

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  3. The truth is the U.S. does not identify India as a source of instability where it is alleged India channels funds to anti-Pakistan elements in FATA ( those who oppose Pakistan and the U.S.) opposed to the groups who are anti-U.S. but not anti-Pakistan. My point being is that fine India may be involved, but that probably prompts and makes ISI insecure about its own national security interests in the region.

    ISI is too insecure an organization that it delves into its retired officers who still have links with insurgents in Afghanistan/Pakistan, to have peace pacts in FATA and simultaneously incur terror at the heart of the Indian embassy/Indian workers/Indian projects in Afghanistan.

    Didn’t General Petraeus say in a hearing that its necessary to maintain contacts with insurgents?

    “[Y]ou have to have contact with bad guys to get intelligence on bad guys,”

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