The Ally From Hell - Magazine - The Atlantic
Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?
4 page article, following are some key highlights
Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material: it is the only Muslim-majority state, out of the 50 or so in the world, to have successfully developed nuclear weapons; its central government is of limited competence and has serious trouble projecting its authority into many corners of its territory (on occasion it has difficulty maintaining order even in the country’s largest city, Karachi); Pakistan’s military and security services are infiltrated by an unknown number of jihadist sympathizers; and many jihadist organizations are headquartered there already.
There is evidence to suggest that neither the Pakistani army, nor the SPD itself, considers jihadism the most immediate threat to the security of its nuclear weapons; indeed, General Kayani’s worry, as expressed to General Kidwai after Abbottabad, was focused on the United States. According to sources in Pakistan, General Kayani believes that the U.S. has designs on the Pakistani nuclear program, and that the Abbottabad raid suggested that the U.S. has developed the technical means to stage simultaneous raids on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
Pakistan’s lies, in particular, have been abundant. The Pakistani government has willfully misled the U.S. for more than 20 years about its support for terrorist organizations, and it willfully misleads the American government when it asserts, against the evidence, that “rogue elements” within the ISI are responsible for the acts of terrorism against India and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Most American officials are at this late stage convinced that there are no “rogue elements” of any size or importance in the ISI; there are only the ISI and the ISI assets that the ISI (with increasing implausibility) denies having. (The ISI’s S Wing, the branch of the service that runs anti-India activities, among other things, is said to have a very potent “alumni association,” in the words of Stephen P. Cohen, a leading American scholar of Pakistan based at the Brookings Institution.) A particular challenge the ISI poses is that while it funds and protects various jihadist groups, these groups often pick their own targets and the timing of their attacks. The ISI has worked for years against American interests—not only against American interests in Afghanistan, but against the American interest in defeating particular jihadist networks, even while it was also working with the Americans against other jihadist organizations.
“The problem with Pakistan is that they still differentiate between ‘good’ terrorists and ‘bad’ terrorists,” Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, told The Atlantic in October.
Although the U.S. did turn away from the region after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, and put renewed pressure on Pakistan over its nuclear program, the story is more complicated than that. A Pakistan expert at Georgetown University, C. Christine Fair, argues that Pakistan should expect American support to flag, given its long history of using militants to advance its interests in India and Afghanistan. “Pakistanis need to be held accountable for their decisions, and Americans and Pakistanis alike need to stop indulging in revisionist history that supports the incessant narrative of Pakistani victimhood,” Fair says. For example, Pakistanis frequently note that the United States did not support Pakistan in its wars with India even though the two states were treaty partners. On this point, Fair says, “We cut off arms supplies in 1965 to Pakistan because it started the war with India by using regular military personnel disguised as mujahideen. Pakistan was a treaty partner with the U.S. at the time—but what treaty says an alliance member has to supply another when it undertakes an act of unprovoked aggression?” In 1971, Fair says, “the Pakistanis were angry at the U.S. again, for not bailing them out from another war they started against India.
Admiral Mullen had been even more shocked by the murder last May of Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist. Shahzad, who maintained close contact with various jihadist leaders, had angered ISI leaders with his reporting, according to The New Yorker. Not long after the killing, Admiral Mullen took the unprecedented step of stating publicly that Shahzad’s death had been “sanctioned by the government” of Pakistan. “I have not seen anything to disabuse the report that the government knew about this,” he said. In fact, he had seen reliable intelligence proving that the top leaders of the Pakistani army and ISI had ordered the murder. The New Yorker reported that the order to kill Shahzad came from an officer on General Kayani’s staff. Sources we spoke with say the order was passed directly to General Pasha, the head of the ISI. According to one of the sources, an official with knowledge of the intelligence, Pasha was told to “deal with it” and “take care of the problem.” According to this source, Mullen was horrified that his Pakistani interlocutors of many years had been involved in orchestrating the killing of a journalist. “It struck a visceral chord with him,” the source told The Atlantic, recalling that Mullen had slammed his desk and said, “This is old school.”
The ISI has strenuously denied any involvement in the Shahzad murder. “There will be no statements on these unsubstantiated matters,” Commodore Zafar Iqbal, an ISI spokesman, said when asked for comment. Another high-ranking official of the ISI said during an extended conversation in Islamabad: “That is an absolutely false allegation. The government of Pakistan had nothing to do with the unfortunate death.” Talking at length with this senior ISI official provided a reporter with a sense of what life must be like for American officials who work regularly with that organization. When asked about the allegation that Lashkar-e-Taiba operates under the protection of the ISI, he said, “We don’t have anything to do with that, not at all.” What about the Mumbai attacks? “We had nothing to do with that. To say that the ISI was involved in Mumbai is really unfair.” What about the Haqqani network and its attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan? “The Haqqani network is something completely separate from us.” When asked if the country’s various security services were equal to the task of protecting civilians from Pakistan’s large assortment of jihadist groups, he gave an enthusiastic yes.