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Pakistan has some explaining to do

It’s going to be interesting to see how Pakistan attempts to weasel its way out of the obvious “someone there was helping bin Laden”  meme.

Here’s their first shot at it:

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.

Ummm.  Yeah, it has to go a little deeper than that, unless someone is going to claim that the ISI – not rogue or retired – was totally asleep at the switch.  Some others (other than just a “rogue element”) that are still on active duty and at pretty high levels had to be complicit.  Waiving it off as “rogue elements” just isn’t going to be good enough.

For bin Laden to stay, safely for up to 7 years within Pakistan and apparently able to moving from one village to another, a whole bunch of people had to turn blind eyes.  Especially with the ISI’s reputation of knowing all that goes on within its borders.

It’s the impression of some in the government that the United States is giving Pakistan some space in the wake of the raid, but only for a limited time — and that if Pakistan doesn’t act in a way that satisfies the United States, there will be consequences.

One of the consequences could be a cut off or sharp reduction in the billions of aid we give them each year for their military and for the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.  At the moment, given this bin Laden story, it doesn’t appear to have been well spent.

That said, Pakistan is very important to us in other ways than just fighting terrorists.   It is the main staging base for the bulk of our logistical support for the effort in Afghanistan. 

Tricky diplomacy ahead.  Pakistan has been embarrassed by the US raid (rightfully so).   Also, although it has never been said openly, they’re seen as so unreliable an ally that we chose not to tell them we were going to do what we did for fear bin Laden would escape.

The US is going to have to move carefully here, but bottom line, Pakistan – at a minimum – is going to have to cough up those who were responsible for making it possible for bin Laden to stay in Pakistan for all those years and punish them.


Twitter: @McQandO


10 Responses to Pakistan has some explaining to do

    • Hollis:
      OK, I can figure the Mission Impossible voice box magic, … but where did you go to get the mask built?
      Sorry, an inside joke.
      Kudos, John.

  • Brass knuckles behind the scene, velvet glove in public. Both sides have lots to lose if this can’t be worked out. I’m not sure our leaders are capable of arriving at a satisfactory outcome.

    I would suggest that this would be a great takeoff point for who to point fingers at
    After all one of the guys who ran ISI was running the Military Academy just down the road from where OBL was staying before he got that job.

  • The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.
    The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
    Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
    “There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”

    “Gutsy decision” my ass.

    • Just to let you know it will be argued that went away when Musharraf went away.

  • I wouldn’t take anything about this at face value. Our statements. Their statements.

    My sketch of what has gone on with Pakistan, at least since 9/11, would follow the general formula that the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. There’s certainly a “Shocked! Shocked!” reaction from both sides as to how things go down between the two countries.

    I’m not claiming that the following is true, but I’m saying that I would not be surprised if at some point, way down the line, we find out that U.S. intelligence had known where bin Laden was for a good long time. That knowing his whereabouts was, theoretically speaking, extremely helpful to us because we would be able to monitor communications traffic (even if the only such traffic was by hand couriers). Just knowing the volume of traffic would be helpful, because it could be matched with traffic volume at other known modes.

    Let’s say that 90% of the action in the war on terror has taken place off stage, necessarily. We get one out of every ten dots to connect, and maybe they’re not exactly the most indicative dots, such that anticipating the rest of the matrix is very difficult.

    I think that there could be such awkward strangeness around this now that all sorts of information is withheld not just from the public but from the political branches of government. Merge that with my powerful sense that the CIA is strictly the junior varsity in the intel community and that would mean that we’re looking mostly at some very tight compartments at DIA where the heavy lifting is done, where going outside those compartments is very risky, and that very small portions of it have to be spoon fed to the civilians at DoD who take it over to the Executive Branch dressed up as serious stuff.

    All I know is that if I was holding serious high level national security paper my first impulse wouldn’t be to share it with this White House.

    • Consider this: We’ve heard a great deal about the value of interrogation of high level terrorists, the most famous being KSM. How much we got from him. How essential it was to getting out in front of al Qaeda. But, and I mean but, having someone like KSM in custody by definition marks the end of his involvement in operations. He can only tell you about the way things were before he was arrested, and his arrest is likely to have caused a considerable alteration of the landscape. This is why the FBI doesn’t arrest and put on trial every mob player it catches in the act. Some are turned around as active informants, meaning that they stay in the game and feed information back to the Feds for future consideration. That has great advantages over both having someone in custody who has turned (depending on their level) and having an undercover who infiltrates the operation.

      But what’s even better than turning an active member, infiltrating with an agent, or having someone in custody? It’s having a key player who is completely wired up without knowing it, whose communications are intercepted, who is being watched by satellite, and every which way, and who can’t take a leak without the remote surveillance teams knowing if it was one cup or two. And best of all is when you have someone in that situation who believes that he had eluded you because if you knew where he was you would have captured or killed him. He thinks he is good to go as long as he hasn’t been taken one way or the other.

      So, given those various scenarios, especially the last one, and the fact that we’ve been fed a steady diet of “Oh, the stuff we got from KSM et al.,” that we don’t really know jack about what the intel crowd has gotten and how they’ve gotten it. It’s not that we’ve been hoodwinked. It’s just that this business cannot be conducted outside of totally classified operations, and that not even the old stuff can be discussed because it would tip off stuff ongoing. So they talk about the captures and the value of the interrogations.

      Under that set of scenarios the killing of bin Laden really is largely beside the point. It could only happen if it was already old news. Otherwise they wouldn’t be blabbing about it the very night it went down and getting half of it wrong. But you can possibly see in the White House performance over this why the most serious intel people with the most serious intel would be reluctant to let it loose to 1600.

  • A country like Pakistan, even with their nuclear weapons, has multiple audiences that they have to keep happy.  Some come in the formal presentation as a country, while others come ankle-biting bu are not less deadly.
    Frankly, Pakistan can’t afford to have a spline.  They play all sides against the middle in what could best be described as an influence pyramid scheme.  Except for the nuclear weapons, there is no there there, and even those nuclear weapons really can’t be used.