Friday, November 4, 2011

Old = Baghdad Bob. New = Islamabad Iqbal

Or, more precisely the un-named ISI official in this section of a rather long Atlantic article on our erstwhile friends the Paks:

...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.

The conversation took place in the restaurant of the Serena
Hotel in Islamabad. The Serena has become an armed fortress: cars are banned
from the hotel entrance; security guards and anti-terror police patrol the
perimeter of the hotel, which is surrounded by razor wire; and guests and
visitors must pass through three separate security checks before being allowed
into the lobby, which is itself watched by plainclothes ISI agents. These
various precautions would seem to suggest that Islamabad is itself not entirely
secure. It was noted that in neighboring Rawalpindi, one of Pakistan’s so-called
garrison cities (Abbottabad is another), the general headquarters of the
Pakistani army itself came under sustained attack by the Taliban in 2009.
Doesn’t all of this suggest that Pakistan is not a secure country?, the ISI
official was asked. “Nonsense,” he replied. “Americans are much too concerned
about the stability and safety of Pakistan.”

..Ok, maybe it ain't exactly Baghdad Bob behavior. After all, Bob was on CNN denying that Americans were in his country beating up on Saddam's finest, even as they were within virtual screenshot. This guy is denying that his organization has anything to do with terror organizations they have had long relations with, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So, maybe he's a bit more Capt. Louis Renault, or Sgt. Schulz?

The balance of the Atlantic piece is a frustrating read as it details continued U.S. reticence, in the face of logistical and other perceived difficulties, to take the one step that would really punish, and perhaps prod the Paks to behave differently. Mixed with the tougher talk from our people, such as Mullen and Panetta, is the belief that we cannot afford to cut them off from (fungible) funding. Also there is some inkling of a stubborn naivete with regard to our ability to change their behavior through a "tough love" approach (that arguably will not have the possibility of attaining toughness absent a cutting off of funding), from of all people, Chuck Petraeus:

There is no escaping this vexed relationship—and little evidence to suggest that it will soon improve. But the American officials in closest contact with the Pakistanis—Admiral Mullen being the notable exception—still seem predisposed to optimism, apparently embracing the belief that Islamabad will change through tough love. A senior U.S. intelligence official told us that General David Petraeus, the new director of the CIA, says he believes he can rebuild relations with the ISI, because he has “a good personal relationship with these guys.”

Reviewing the history of this 'vexed relationship' as one can do in other portions of the Atlantic piece, one wonders exactly what evidence there is that repeating what is essentially the same game plan as has been utilized since the 70s will lead to any different result. Perhaps they want you to THINK you have a "good personal relationship" with them. You cannot trust these 'guys'. That is apparent.

A more likely reading of such happy talk is that it is born of a resigned pragmatism, a realization that the kabuki dance is necessary given the nuke worry, and the related belief that ISI half-assed-counter-terror cooperation is better than none at all in that part of the world. One wonders though. Would it really be that much worse to just to cut them off, and moving to rely on India and/or slouching-toward-erstwhile- friend-status Afghanistan? Despite all the pragatic calculus, it boils down to this. The record show a simple take-away: So long as we fund, they will continue to play their deeply anti-U.S. paranoid double game. We will in essence fund the killing of our own folks, and our true friends.