Pakistani Military between Rock and Hard Place

One of the reasons for which Pakistan’s military is so incensed about the unannounced US raid into Pakistan territory is that they are afraid the operation might form a precedent that could be exploited by India. Indeed, Pakistani generals thought that the SEALs were an Indian special ops team that had inserted itself at Abbottabad. The military has warned India against undertaking any such adventures.

Indian chief of staff VK Singh provoked a small crisis when he maintained that India had the capability to go in after Lashkar-e Tayyiba figures.

India is spoiling to kill or capture the leadership in Pakistani Punjab of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba or Righteous Army, the terrorist group that was behind the destruction at Mumbai in late 2008. A raid like the American one might be a way for New Delhi to bring the LeT leadership to justice.

There’s more:’

Captured documents from Bin Laden’s compound show that al-Qaeda was engaged in some thinking about hitting Western rail lines on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. These plans were not operational, but given what happened in Madrid, are still scary.

It turns out that the US military has to share the humiliation of Bin Laden’s having been right under their noses in Abbotabad. State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks confirm that there were 100 US military trainers at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbotabad sometime in or after 2008. This large US presence just around the corner from “Waziristan House” where Bin Laden was staying, raises questions about whether the Pakistani military necessarily could have known about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. They US trainers did not.

There are persistent reports of intercepted al-Qaeda phone calls as part of the story.

Najam Sethi on Geo TV, “Aapas Ki Baat”, May 5, 2011:

‘Sethi says that the ISI intercepted a telephone conversation somewhere in 2009. Sethi adds that the conversation, which was in Arabic language, was translated in English and handed over to the CIA. He further says that the call was made from Nowshera to Saudi Arabia and the subject of the call was financial matters.

He says that the caller will deactivate the SIM after every call he made to Saudi Arabia and thus he activated and deactivated his SIM at least six times over the following nine months. Sethi says: “The last call the SIM was used for was made from Usama Bin Ladin’s compound. The ISI was constantly providing the record of conversations to the CIA during that whereas and it was this intelligence sharing that led the CIA to Usama Bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad.

Now the question is that if ISI is deliberately trying to protect Usama Bin Ladin, why it has shared this information with the United States.” ‘

Aljazeera English has video:

15 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing. I don’t know that the ISI as an organization, or the Pakistani military as an organization, were directly aiding UBL. But there had to be leaks somewhere. There is a great difference between Pakistan missing Bin Laden for five years in their own country and the US having 100 military trainers in their country not aware of his presence. If there is blame to go around, it certainly isn’t equal blame.

    A question I would have is in that community, do most houses have internet access?

    Does the house really stick out like a sore thumb in the area?

    I know you are saying many houses are build like that in Pakistan, but the reporters on the ground there say it looks very different for that area.

    And even the kids playing around the house could tell it was different and the people inside acted strange. Just many things that don’t add up here.

  2. Undertaking a military incursion (i.e. raid) into another country is a highly risky undertaking. If anything were to go wrong during the conduct of the raid it could quickly devolve into a disaster for the participants very quickly. Witness the misfortune that befell our troops under president Carter in Iran. Secondly, a failed raid would have huge international political repercussions. Violating another country’s territorial borders, without consent or prior agreement, is justly perceived as a slap against the dignity of that country. The benfits, and the level on confidence in one’s intelligence, would have to be very great indeed to risk such an action. In the case of the U.S.’s raid to get Bin Laden, the success of the mission overwhelmed the cries of indignation from Pakistan about the breach of its borders. Pakistan’s case was also watered down by virtue of the continued air kill strikes against selected terrorists in various parts of its country. The critical factor in this situation is that terrorists are, for a fact, present in Pakistan in spite of Pakistan’s denials. Hence, the U.S. continues to pursue and kill terrorists in Pakistan.

    I would doubt that India would try such an excursion. The relationship between India and Pakistan versus the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is fundamentally different. In the case of the U.S. – Pakistani relationship there exists a “constructive relaionship.” The U.S. provides Pakistan significant financial aid and we share intelligence. The U.S. is also deeply committed to keeping a close eye on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. So, was Pakistan pissed about the U.S. raid? Undoubtably. However, were India to try such a raid it would probably trigger another war between the nations. The benefit vs. risk equation is significantly different.

  3. Perhaps I’ve been left too cynical after eight years of Bush and Cheney so forgive for being just a wee bit suspicious about these stories suddenly coming from ISI and other Pakistani “sources” claiming that it was slipping intelligence about Osama to the US all along. If that were, in fact, the case, then why was Washington so concerned about letting Pakistan know about the raid in advance?

    Giving the ISI the benefit of the doubt for a moment, it’s true that not the entire organization is riddled with Taliban and al Qaeda supporters and moles. But there is enough of a problem of infiltration in the ISI to make me question how such a secret – that calls were being traced by ISI to inside the bin Laden compound – would not have been slipped to someone who knew someone who knew a courier who knew the courier.

    It stretches credulity to the breaking point.

  4. “It turns out that the US military has to share the humiliation of Bin Laden’s having been right under their noses in Abbotabad.”

    While it seems at first blush that the Pakistanis must or should obviously have known that bin Laden was in Abottabad, because of the large military facility and the presence of the retired intelligence and military personages there, upon consideration, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, just the opposite is true.

    The presence of these retired eminencies grises means that this is a city in which it is quite normal for some secretive character who keeps to himself to establish a large private retreat and avoid prying eyes. It’s similar in a lot of suburbs around Washington, D.C.: Oh, look, someone bought a big piece of land and put a security fence around it. You can sometimes see security guards trying not to be obvious on and around the property. Who is it? Who knows, that sort of thing happens all the time.

    Now, this same behavior in Peoria, Illinois would attract all sorts of attention (probably most people would assume it was a drug dealer).

  5. How ridiculous to assert that simply the presence in the area of US trainers is the equivalent of being aware of Pakistani intelligence etc – if they are operating in a limited function as “trainer” – they may have had NO reasonable expectation that they should have known about the details of the compound. – TO assert that even in passing is below your usual level of quality that i read your blog for

    • “It turns out that the US military has to share the humiliation of Bin Laden’s having been right under their noses in Abbotabad.”

      I agree. A most ridiculous assertion. At first I thought it had to be a joke.

    • Among the things Westerners have been saying is that Pakistani officers often retire to Abbottabad, and should have known Bin Laden was there. And the retired officers would have known about him better than active-duty US military personnel? The point is that the argument is being made on grounds of proximity, and what’s sauce for the goose…

      I’m agnostic on the issue, but just sayin’…

      • Well, given that the Pakistani army used the mujaheddin movement in the war against the Soviets, and then created the Taliban, you’d think they’d know their own handiwork. “Darn, those Arabs look awfully familiar…”

  6. Could you post tomorrow on this al Jazeera story about Iran:

    “A political dispute between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader is reported to have intensified.

    “Ahmadinejad is said to be contemplating resigning after Heidar Moslehi, the intelligence minister he had sacked, was reinstated by Khamenei.

    “The president is understood to have shirked some of his duties and skipped cabinet meetings for the past ten days in anger over the decision.”

    Many thanks.

    • No kidding! What’s the point of having a nuclear arsenal if it doesn’t win you special treatment from other nuclear powers? It always had seemed to work that way before.

    • James, evidently you are not aware of the USA “doctrine of limited sovereignty”.While the USA has absolute and total sovereignty within its borders (and Guantanamo Bay), the sovereignty of any other nation exists at the pleasure of the USA. Basically we operate under the assumption that we can intrude at will when it suits our “national interest”. The good old days in Latin America were filled with exercises of the doctrine, now the Middle East is learning its intricacies.

      • As awful as this behavior is, America did not invent it. I understand that the tradition in diplomacy is that great-power states have a right to designate certain foreign matters as being a “vital national interest”, a sort of red line that they will go to war over. Every important country had them. Since all the great powers were private-property monarchies, ideological disagreements over what interests were “vital” must have been muted, but the fact that wars were so common in the 18th century shows that there wasn’t much respect for the interests of others.

        The real problem begins when you make yourself a “superpower”, which has economic interests everywhere. Now this should REDUCE the “vitalness” of any one interest, but you know that’s never how it works in practice. The more interests you have, the more your economy becomes a giant financial bubble overseen by oligarchs who fear any signs of imperial decline anywhere. So EVERYTHING becomes a vital interest because it might cause a market crash. Even an anti-capitalist state like the USSR got put in that situation, and it wasn’t the market that collapsed because of the defiance of Poland, but the entire Soviet bloc.

        The old UK, the US and the USSR all put forth the claim that they were so important to the survival of civilization that they could not allow any disruption of their economy of any size by any country anywhere on Earth.

        There you have it, the corruption of absolute power, and the unsustainability of absolute power, all bound together and waiting to explode. Every country that will ever claim the same status in the future will suffer the same trap, because the problem is in the nature of power itself.

  7. Ever since 2001, there has been an 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to confront headon- Pakistan’s use of jihad groups as proxies against India and Afghanistan. Their succor of bin Laden demonstrates that there are those in the Pakistan government who wish us harm, as well. Evidently they feel their possession of nuclear weapons frees them to act in whatever ways they want.

    Yesterday NPR carried news of the indictment in a US court of an ISI agent and other Pakistanis associated with Lashkar y Taiba. I do not understand why Pakistan’s behaviour is not taken to the UN and condemned. Unless unrelenting pressure is put on them to give up these practices, there will come a horrible catalclysm there.

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