Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pakistan's Double Game

By Bruce P. Cameron
October 18, 2009

The core challenge to President Barack Obama’s Afghan War may not be the Taliban, nor even al-Qaeda, but rather Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence service, the ISI, with its dual loyalties when it comes to fighting Islamic extremists.

Read on.


Morton Kurzweil said...

According to the Nobel committee, Obama deserved the Peace prize. According to to those who would have liked to be on the committee criticizing the choice rather than suggesting and defending another candidate is another example of mob mentality. Joining a mob does not legitimize ignorance or violence. Mob opinion is an emotional cathartic. It is never a responsible act, even as a religious exorcism.

Chiaroscuro said...

I am certainly no expert on military strategy, diplomatic finesse or the religio-political labyrinthe of central Asia. Naturally, as an American, that won't stop me from having an opinion!

From the start, it seems to me that American leaders, both political and military, have been played for fools by our adversaries in the region. I think Americans are too willing to believe that they can make deals -- deals for arms, deals for aid, deals for American support -- that turn out to be double-deals by our ostensible "partners". I believe we've fooled ourselves into thinking we understand the motives of each faction when we barely understand who and what the factions are. We believe we can co-opt warlords and tribal leaders when at best we can obtain temporary cooperation for reasons we barely fathom.

That doesn't mean there aren't some American observers of the scene who comprehend the subtleties of cultural relationships and rivalries that go back a thousand years. I just don't think these are the people who are formulating our strategic policies in the area.

Can Mr. Cameron provide some evidence to support his opinion that the "Pakistani people, in a voluntary act of the exercise of people’s power, might overthrow the ISI and related army generals and form a new government of national reconciliation with prospects for democracy and a healthier civil society." That's a pretty tall order.

I think it's a very rare thing for anybody to betray their natural heirarchy of loyalties -- family, clan, tribe, religious/ethnic group, geographic/national identity.

Even if the Pakistani people are willing to rise up against the ISI and the generals -- who are, indeed, increasingly unpopular -- do they have the leadership that the Iraqi ethnic factions have? And if they have the leaders, are those leaders willing to cross traditional loyalties to make common cause with us and, by implication, the Indians?

Beyond all these questions, we should also be questioning the reasons for staying in Afghanistan in any capacity. We might -- MIGHT -- be able to forge some kind of improved, stable state in parts of Afghanistan with luck, hundreds of billions of dollars and a decade or two. We certainly bear enormous responsibility -- both directly and historically -- for the miserable instability and violence of the entire region. That, however, wouldn't stop us from walking away if we didn't have strategic interests in staying.

So what are our strategic interests in staying in Afghanistan? I can only think of one: proximity to Pakistan in the event of an ISI-led coup that puts nuclear weapons in the hands of the really bad guys.

That might be comforting if I could believe that we still possess some competence in these things. Our performance in Iraq -- from a strategic military and intelligence point of view -- leads me to doubt our ability to formulate or execute a plan to contain the nukes and key nuclear personnel.

We've blundered into something we can hardly understand. We're mucking around for decades in a region because we want to control its natural resources. We otherwise wouldn't give a rat's ass for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or any of the sand-blasted lands we've been stomping through.

We're killing thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of central Asians. We're spending trillions in a rush to bankrupt this country. And we're betraying everything this country was supposed to stand for while sending us sliding into permanent decline. All for oil. All for the greater glory of some neocons and their pet corporations.

We could have bought outright all the oil in the middle east and it would have been cheaper.

RichardKanePA said...

I think General Stanley McChrystal's grim assessment that conditions on the ground are far worse than stalemate needs to be taken seriously. Even though he called for 40,000 troops to starve off a rather quick defeat he wasn’t making the pep talk of a super-hawk. There was nothing in his body language to suggest that the US wasn’t going to lose eventually despite more troops. To this we need to add in the bad news Bruce Cameron has presented and bad news from other directions.

The best hope may be a quick withdrawal as soon as a face-saving gesture can be arraigned. Such as the Taliban agreeing to turn over any al Qaeda leader for trial if any legitimate world court institution requests, which would of course mean that al Qaeda leaders will just leave Pakistan. But it would stop them from cheering that al Qaeda suicide bombers are more powerful than the most powerful country on earth.

A problem with this is that Fox News, the Washington Times and Dick Cheney would scream bin Laden won, allowing al Qaeda to cheer a little. The reverse occurred in 2003 except Bush haters didn’t announce that bin Laden won. Bin Laden’s greatest anger was over the presence of US troops on sacred Saudi soil. Bush withdrew them in 2003 but as US troops slowing withdrew, private contractors came in, who al Qaeda attacked, getting the entire county nervous since so many Saudis rely on non-Muslim servants and other workers. But if Democrats had said, “al Qaeda”, won bin Laden would have said it as well.

At this point Cheney and the Fox News, Washington Times, Sun Myung Moonie conglomerates expect the Afghan War one way or another to end the 2006-08 progressive advances, and unless we are willing to deal with the grim reality of events in South East Asia, including what Bruce Cameron articulated, they are probably right. However I think spreading some grim reality, might make the scenario they hope for, less likely to happen/
for more details see,

Bill from Saginaw said...

Strangely absent from Bruce Cameron's historical account of the rise of the Pakistani ISI and that murky spy agency's decades long, convoluted, and compromised relationship with the CIA, the Pentagon, and the various other interlocking, competing local factions in the Af/Pak region is any mention of the ISI's partnership with American intelligence in the months immediately preceding the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Also, nary a reference to the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl.

Who do you suppose was translating all that electronic chatter that NSA was intercepting between Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan tribal regions and the plotters as they assembled and rehearsed their hijack plans on American soil?

Why were George Tenet and the head of the Pakistani ISI engaged in face to face consultations in Islamabad during the summer of 2001 and in Washington, DC on the morning of September 11th?

Why was the head of the ISI and top Pakistani military and diplomatic folks read the riot act (by Lawrence Eagleburger and other US officials) about having to decide whose side they were on in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, while the WTC rubble was still smoldering?

Why was the director of the ISI, a very powerful player in the inner circle of Pakistani politics, forced to resign and go into retirement within a month of the 9/11 attacks?

How did it come to pass that journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped from an ISI safe house, where he had gone for a rendevous with a source who supposedly knew things about the ties between Al Qaeda and the ISI?

And what about the persistent news report that Mohammed Atta received funds wire transferred from a Pakistani ISI front bank account?

Double game indeed.

Don't you think it's time to finally declassify the documentation withheld from both Congress and the 911 Commission concerning the existing working relationship between the Bush/Cheney intelligence team and the Pakistani ISI in the months, weeks and days immediately preceding 9/11/01?

Bill from Saginaw