Pakistan's double game

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Flint, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 10, 2009
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    Pakistan's double game
    April 18, 2009
    IT IS HARDLY a secret that Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has long maintained close ties with the Taliban and kindred armed extremist groups. But now that President Obama has focused on repelling the Taliban's bid for power in Afghanistan, sending 17,000 fresh American troops to bolster US and NATO counterinsurgency forces there, Pakistan's treacherous double game has to be confronted squarely.

    In a recent story drawing on accounts from US and Pakistani security officials, The New York Times described how the secretive S Wing of the ISI provides militant groups with ammunition and fuel for the fight against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Operatives in S Wing also recruit new fighters for the Taliban from radical madrasas inside Pakistan. And ISI personnel help those groups with strategic planning, even counseling them when to step up and when to gear down their operations.

    The good news is that, by using informants and intercepted communications, US intelligence was able to uncover the ISI's complicity with the Taliban. The bad news is that no matter how vehemently US officials complain to their Pakistani counterparts, nothing much changes.

    The ISI goes on using Islamist militants as proxies because Pakistan's national-security establishment views them as an indispensable asset. The ISI's jihadist proxies are meant to counter India's influence in Afghanistan. That was the lesson when US intelligence determined that the ISI was behind last summer's bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

    The ISI's puppet show in Afghanistan enables Pakistan to prevent not only India but also Iran and Russia from gaining too much of a foothold in Afghanistan. The double game also brings Pakistan $1 billion a year in military aid from the United States.

    This is how the game works: The army and the ISI hunt down Al Qaeda figures for the United States and have no compunctions about striking hard against Islamist radicals who want to seize power in Pakistan. These actions make Pakistan a valued US ally in the war on terror. But at the same time, Pakistan has an interest in keeping the jihadist pot boiling in Afghanistan. As long as the Taliban and kindred groups are in the field, American military aid continues coming in, and India is kept at bay.

    Yet this game inflicts great harm on Afghanistan and its other neighbors. As President Obama said recently, "Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders." If Pakistan makes the right choice, Obama should commit America to achieving peace and reconciliation between India and Pakistan.
  3. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

    Mar 22, 2009
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    This is a very good article, Flint, S wing they are talking can be Special Service wing of ISI, there is an old report from The New York Times dated 25th March, 2009 which also tells us some more on S wing of ISI.

    The link and the report from The New York Times follows:

    Afghan Strikes by Taliban Get Pakistan Help, U.S. Aides Say

    Published: March 25, 2009

    WASHINGTON — The Taliban’s widening campaign in southern Afghanistan is made possible in part by direct support from operatives in Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, despite Pakistani government promises to sever ties to militant groups fighting in Afghanistan, according to American government officials.

    The support consists of money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders who are gearing up to confront the international force in Afghanistan that will soon include some 17,000 American reinforcements.

    Support for the Taliban, as well as other militant groups, is coordinated by operatives inside the shadowy S Wing of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the officials said. There is even evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections.

    Details of the ISI’s continuing ties to militant groups were described by a half-dozen American, Pakistani and other security officials during recent interviews in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. All requested anonymity because they were discussing classified and sensitive intelligence information.

    The American officials said proof of the ties between the Taliban and Pakistani spies came from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The Pakistani officials interviewed said that they had firsthand knowledge of the connections, though they denied that the ties were strengthening the insurgency.

    American officials have complained for more than a year about the ISI’s support to groups like the Taliban. But the new details reveal that the spy agency is aiding a broader array of militant networks with more diverse types of support than was previously known — even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI’s playing a “double game” had ended.

    Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders publicly deny any government ties to militant groups, and American officials say it is unlikely that top officials in Islamabad are directly coordinating the clandestine efforts. American officials have also said that midlevel ISI operatives occasionally cultivate relationships that are not approved by their bosses.

    In a sign of just how resigned Western officials are to the ties, the British government has sent several dispatches to Islamabad in recent months asking that the ISI use its strategy meetings with the Taliban to persuade its commanders to scale back violence in Afghanistan before the August presidential election there, according to one official.

    But the inability, or unwillingness, of the embattled civilian government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, to break the ties that bind the ISI to the militants illustrates the complexities of a region of shifting alliances. Obama administration officials admit that they are struggling to understand these allegiances as they try to forge a strategy to quell violence in Afghanistan, which has intensified because of a resurgent Taliban. Fighting this insurgency is difficult enough, officials said, without having to worry about an allied spy service’s supporting the enemy.

    But the Pakistanis offered a more nuanced portrait. They said the contacts were less threatening than the American officials depicted and were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India, Pakistan’s archenemy. A senior Pakistani military officer said, “In intelligence, you have to be in contact with your enemy or you are running blind.”

    The ISI helped create and nurture the Taliban movement in the 1990s to bring stability to a nation that had been devastated by years of civil war between rival warlords, and one Pakistani official explained that Islamabad needed to use groups like the Taliban as “proxy forces to preserve our interests.”

    A spokesman at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment for this article.

    Over the past year, a parade of senior American diplomats, military officers and intelligence officials has flown to Islamabad to urge Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders to cut off support for militant groups, and Washington has threatened to put conditions on more than $1 billion in annual military aid to Pakistan. On Saturday, the director of the C.I.A., Leon E. Panetta, met with top Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

    Little is publicly known about the ISI’s S Wing, which officials say directs intelligence operations outside of Pakistan. American officials said that the S Wing provided direct support to three major groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan: the Taliban based in Quetta, Pakistan, commanded by Mullah Muhammad Omar; the militant network run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and a different group run by the guerrilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.

    Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, recently told senators that the Pakistanis “draw distinctions” among different militant groups.

    “There are some they believe have to be hit and that we should cooperate on hitting, and there are others they think don’t constitute as much of a threat to them and that they think are best left alone,” Mr. Blair said.

    The Haqqani network, which focuses its attacks on Afghanistan, is considered a strategic asset to Pakistan, according to American and Pakistani officials, in contrast to the militant network run by Baitullah Mehsud, which has the goal of overthrowing Pakistan’s government.

    Top American officials speak bluntly about how the situation has changed little since last summer, when evidence showed that ISI operatives helped plan the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, an attack that killed 54 people.

    “They have been very attached to many of these extremist organizations, and it’s my belief that in the long run, they have got to completely cut ties with those in order to really move in the right direction,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS.

    The Taliban has been able to finance a military campaign inside Afghanistan largely through proceeds from the illegal drug trade and wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf. But American officials said that when fighters needed fuel or ammunition to sustain their attacks against American troops, they would often turn to the ISI.

    When the groups needed to replenish their ranks, it would be operatives from the S Wing who often slipped into radical madrasas across Pakistan to drum up recruits, the officials said.

    The ISI support for militants extends beyond those operating in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. American officials said the spy agency had also shared intelligence with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group suspected in the deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, and provided protection for it.

    Mr. Zardari took steps last summer to purge the ISI’s top ranks after the United States confronted Pakistan with evidence about the Indian Embassy bombing. Mr. Zardari pledged that the ISI would be “handled,” and that anyone working with militants would be dismissed.

    Yet with the future of Mr. Zardari’s government uncertain in the current political turmoil and with Obama officials seeing few immediate alternatives, American officials and outside experts said that Pakistan’s military establishment appears to see little advantage in responding to the demands of civilian officials in Islamabad or Washington.

    As a result, when the Haqqani fighters need to stay a step ahead of American forces stalking them on the ground and in the air, they rely on moles within the spy agency to tip them off to allied missions planned against them, American military officials said.

    Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and Eric Schmitt from Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan.
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    The Americans are only realizing what has been an open secret for us. The worst part of the whole thing is that Pakistan is still getting rewarded for this duplicity with even more money. Pakistan uses terrorism as a commodity it can sell at the international level. It extracts its price from it as it has little else to earn money from. There is this new commitment from the Friends of Pakistan forum. They will pour in more money, and Pakistan will use it to train and pour out more terrorists.
    Time America wakes up from its slumber for good.
  5. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 13, 2009
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    Pakistan ISI: The Patron and the Victim | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
  6. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

    May 29, 2009
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    Editor's note: Fawaz A. Gerges is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics, London University. He is author of "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global."

    London (CNN) -- On a recent visit to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron had this to say about Pakistan, historically a close friend of the West's: "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

    Seen by the Pakistani government as a slap in the face, Cameron's remarks almost caused a diplomatic breach in relations between the two countries. His remarks followed the leaking of U.S. documents on the WikiLeaks website in which Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency was accused of secretly aiding and inflaming the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and they engendered a heated debate in Western capitals on whether Pakistan is a friend or a foe.

    The dominant narrative in the West now is that Pakistan is a foe, playing a double game, guiding the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand even as it receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help in combating al Qaeda and like-minded groups.

    "The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don't have ongoing contacts" with the militants, said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat on the powerful Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan this month.

    During a July visit to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly aired Washington's suspicion and mistrust of its ally by stating that she believed that someone in the Pakistan government knew where al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding in the country's tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.

    Clinton's statement was an implicit indictment of Pakistan's double game; it was met with angry denials by Pakistani leaders, who said the U.S. undervalued their support and sacrifice in battling al Qaeda.

    What this simplistic argument neglects is that Pakistan serves its own vital national interests and cooperates with the West only to advance those interests.

    An underlying premise in inter-state relations is that nations have only interests and no permanent friends. That is the game nations have played since the establishment of the state system in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Pakistan's foreign policy is a case in point.

    Throughout the Cold War rivalry between the U.S.-led Western alliance and the Soviet camp, Pakistan allied itself with the West and fought devastating wars against India, its strategic rival and a close friend of communist China and Russia. The Pakistan leadership leveraged the Cold War to extract military and technical aid from the United States and the Western powers.

    When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan acted as America's spearhead in the fight against the "evil empire," and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency was in charge of the CIA's expansive campaign to train, arm and guide the Afghan mujahedeen, including the bin Laden contingent of the Afghan Arabs.

    More than any other power, Pakistan played a key role in the armed resistance that turned Afghanistan into Russia's Vietnam. In return, Pakistan's security forces received logistical and financial aid from the U.S., but more important, Pakistan gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, becoming a paramount arbiter of its neighbor's internal affairs.

    After the Soviet forces retreated in defeat in 1989 and Afghanistan plunged into all-out civil war, Pakistani leaders felt deserted by the U.S. and had to pick up the shattered pieces and bring about a measure of stability to the war-torn country. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. had no interest in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, relics of the Cold War.

    Pakistan relied on the Taliban, a student-led Islamic-based social movement that burst into the scene and imposed a draconian order wrapped in an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency nourished a close connection with the Taliban and consolidated its hegemony over the broken country.

    Although Pakistan was a close friend of the U.S.'s from the 1950s until 1989, the 1990s marked the beginning of suspicion and distrust between the two countries. The Pakistani leadership, particularly the security apparatus, felt scorned and abandoned by its former superpower patron, which cut Pakistan off from military aid because of its nuclear weapons program and threatened to impose sanctions on it.

    There is more to the relationship between Pakistan and the West than the simple dichotomy of "either/or."

    For example, since last year, U.S. officials say the Pakistani military has launched a powerful offensive against the Pakistan Taliban, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban, because the former began to threaten the current Pakistani government. (The Pakistani military has suffered more than 2,000 casualties, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have been displaced.)

    The Pakistani military insists that it is waging all-out war against both al Qaeda and its extremist allies -- the Pakistan Taliban -- and U.S. officials concur that they have seen a shift in the country's attitudes toward the Taliban in the past 18 months.

    On the other hand, the Pakistan military appears to be reluctant to attack the Afghan Taliban, as the West demands, because it wants to leverage the Taliban in any future settlement in Afghanistan. For the Pakistani leadership, the Afghan Taliban are an important bargaining card, a strategic reserve on which they could rely when Western troops exit the war-torn country.

    Like their Western nemesis, the Afghan Taliban bitterly complain that the Pakistanis are playing a "double game" with them and say that they "feed us with one hand and arrest and kill us with the other." There is no love lost between Pakistan and the Taliban, a relationship based on self-interests and political considerations.

    Pakistan's strategic rivalry with India outweighs any pressure exerted by the West on Islamabad to end support for the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan's conduct via Afghanistan is driven by geostrategic concerns and fear of Indian influence in its backyard, not by intrinsic hostility or friendship toward the West or the Afghan Taliban.

    If the Western powers want to drive a wedge between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban, they must address Pakistan's geostrategic concerns and interests via India. An effective settlement of the Afghan-Pakistan conflict must be region-wide and involve India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and China, an almost impossible mission.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Fawaz A. Gerges.
  7. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

    May 10, 2010
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    Bihar, BanGalore , India
    Obama's focus is Pak duplicity
    In the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures about how the war in Afghanistan has turned out to be a nightmare for the American-led international forces, analysts had rushed to conclude that the US Congress would compel President Obama to bow to domestic public opinion, which wants American soldiers to be brought home at the earliest. But statements made at the highest levels of his administration over the past week suggest otherwise. They point to the emergence of a more coherent and better focused strategy to arrest, roll back and eventually eliminate the influence of al-Qaida and its Taliban affiliates in that beleaguered country.

    The most significant element of the strategy is that the deadline for the start of the withdrawal of US troops — scheduled for July 2011 — is not set in stone. On ABC's "This Week", defence secretary Robert Gates asserted that the drawdown will be limited in nature. Lots of troops will still be around 19 months from now.

    This spells bad news for Pakistan's army. Its conduct in the war has been rooted in the belief that all it has to do until the Americans pack up and leave is to run with the Taliban hare even while claiming to hunt with the American hound. The double-dealing won't work anymore. Not least because in the same interview to ABC, Gates also announced that the US is undertaking a major build-up in eastern Afghanistan — the stronghold of the Haqqani faction of the Taliban, which has been attacking the international forces — in order to have a "decisive push against terrorist safe havens close to the borders with Pakistan". The operations, he added, will be mounted on "both sides of the border" to prevent the terrorists from crossing it.

    It is this Haqqani faction that the Pakistani army and ISI have been cultivating in the hope that it will stake a claim in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul once the US forces exit. It was reckoned that this would go some way to realizing Pakistan's goal of gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. The army will surely be constrained when it comes to cooperating with the international forces to smash the Haqqani network because the Americans have let it be known they will deploy high-end weaponry to kill the network's leaders and hardcore supporters.

    Such a development is bound to widen the rifts between the Taliban and the Pakistani army. Several recent reports suggest that relations between the GHQ and its protégés are already strained to breaking point as a result of Pakistan's two-faced policy. Taliban leaders have been arrested and even killed at America's behest since 9/11. One of them told Newsweek: "They feed us with one hand and kill us with the other." The Afghan insurgents are convinced more than ever before that the only thing that interests Pakistan is to promote its national interest. That interest now lies in influencing Afghan politics in order to neutralize India's presence in the country.

    To sweeten the bitter pill that the Pakistani army will be forced to swallow, Gates reassured it that America will not repeat what it did after the defeat of the Soviets — pack up and go, leaving Pakistan to collect the debris. He seemed to suggest that this provoked the change in "strategic calculus". Could that have prompted Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's envoy in Washington, to tell an American news channel that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan would have any truck with a Taliban-style regime?

    President Obama himself has spelt out America's emerging strategy with clarity and vigour. Speaking in Atlanta, the president warned that his administration would "not tolerate" sanctuaries for terrorist outfits in Pakistan. It is from Afghan and Pakistani soil that they plotted and trained people to murder innocents in America and in countries allied to it. Should Afghanistan be engulfed by a wider insurgency, he added, al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack. He promised he would not let that happen. He did not show any concern about the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown.

    In the days and weeks ahead, New Delhi will need to know whether any quid pro quo is involved between the US and Pakistan in the conduct of the war. Will Washington go some way to address Islamabad's concerns about Kashmir and the Indian presence in Afghanistan? Or will it bring pressure to bear on Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to book and dismantle terrorist outfits operating on its soil?

    New Delhi's leverage in this unfolding scenario would be strengthened if it moved swiftly to end the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir. It needs to reach out to all sections of opinion in the Valley and pay genuine heed to Kashmiris' grievances. A rigid law-and-order approach alone would be counter-productive. That requires bold thinking and prompt action. Both, alas, are not much in evidence at present.

    Read more: Obama's focus is Pak duplicity - All That Matters - Sunday TOI - Home - The Times of India

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