Pakistan Arrests CIA Informants in Bin Laden Case

The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has arrested five Pakistani informants who gave the CIA information leading to the raid on Usamah Bin Laden’s compound at Abbotabad, according to the NYT. The arrests appear to have happened some time ago, and were part of the recent consultations of Leon Panetta, who is transitioning from CIA chief to Secretary of Defense, with Pakistani officials.

From an American point of view, that Pakistan arrested the informants rather than giving them medals suggests perfidy. But from a Pakistani point of view, they can’t be having nationals working for a foreign intelligence agency and enabling foreign special operations raids into the country from outside.

The security relationship between the US and Pakistan is breaking down in 2011 in alarming ways. The Raymond Davis case, in which a CIA operative shot down two Pakistani men in broad daylight at a roundabout in Lahore last January, and then the consulate extraction team failed to get to him in time and ran over a third man on the way, had soured relations. Ironically, the US government sprang Davis by appealing to sharia or Islamic law, arranging for the relatives of the slain men to be paid blood money. Oklahoma, which has banned sharia, should be advised.

Then the US mission into Islamabad that ended with the death of Bin Laden came as a shock to the Pakistani elite, both because it looked as though some elements in Pakistan may have been sheltering the terrorist and mass murderer and because the US had so blithely ignored Pakistani sovereignty in not telling Islamabad about the operation.

The arrest of the informants, however, is less dire than and has fewer clear lessons than US politicians such as Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan suggest.

First of all, if the ISI had been actively sheltering Bin Laden, it would have been apparent in the computer files and papers the SEALs carried off from his compound. In reality, what has so far leaked from the US government in this regard is that there is no such evidence in that material. That Bin Laden had some sort of ‘support network’ in Pakistan is clear; that Gen. Shuja Pasha of the ISI or army chief of staff Pervez Kayani were part of it seems incredible. If the US had evidence to that effect, it surely would have deployed it by now.

Second, the US covert activities in Pakistan have become public and are unpopular among the public, just as the US would not react positively to being spied on, bombed and having rogue operations go bad on city streets– all by even a close ally. Pakistan’s democracy is fragile, but it does have parliamentary elections and parties can win or lose on public opinion, and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has suffered in the public eye by its complaisance toward US interference in the country. Moreover, the powerful military establishment in Islamabad is furious at US high-handedness. The British ruled what is now Pakistan from the 1840s until 1947, and Pakistan was supposed to be about South Asian Muslim independence and self-reliance, so that having a super-power’s deputy commissioners reinserted into the country is most unwelcome to a lot of Pakistanis.

The United States needs to put things like drone attacks in the hands of the Department of Defense rather than in those of the CIA, so that they are not covert operations but rather elements of war-fighting. The US needs a Status of Forces Agreement with the Pakistani government laying out the terms of legitimate US actions in that country. And the Obama administration needs to come to Congress for authorization to bomb Pakistan (just as it should have gone to Congress with regard to Libya).

US bad relations with Pakistan at the moment derive from using the CIA in paramilitary ways in a no-man’s land of covert action that lacks any framework of international or bilateral law. If Washington goes on like this, it will push Pakistan altogether into the arms of the Chinese and it will set up a negative situation for its likely withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which Islamabad has powerful perceived interests that the US has not respected.

The US-Pakistan relationship is important and can be repaired, but it must be by the two countries acting like democracies, not cartoon spies.

19 Responses

  1. Certainly I’d hope that a SOFA could be reached that outlines legitimate US action in Pakistan (and that the US would adhere), but haven’t other SOFAs been sources of incredible unpopularity? I’m thinking of something like Okinawa, where US bases are legal but create resentment. To me, the long-term goal of repairing the US relationship with Pakistan’s government and citizens just seems at odds with the short-term interest in using drones and conducting special forces operations.

  2. Pakistan is not a responsible democracy and so should not be treated like something it is not. They do have reasonable elections occasionally, but the officials cannot control the country’s security forces.

    • Since when is the US a “responsible democracy?”

      Gee, “we” have what, in an honest press and political climate, would be described as a rogue set of spy agencies amd military commands, a pretty compendious demolition of the “quaint” notions of personal liberty and government behavior in our faded Constitution, and a lot of people clamoring for more, and more intrusive, State Security apparatus. And applauding “extra-legal,” and totally high-handed, remote-control terror-bombing of oops! was that a group of “terrorist Taliban insurgent militants,” or oh well! a wedding party? And how about those unChristian payments of “blood money” for plain old murder?

      And do you seriously contend that our country’s leaders “control our security forces?” If they do actually run the many deadly, corrupt sideshows, of which a few occasionally leak into visibility, then “we the people” are more seriously screwed than one might think.

      But hey, “we” are bigger and better armed than anyone else, so WE declare the rules of Calvinball as played on the board of the Great Game of RISK! tm — right? Too bad “our” fearless Networked Battlespace, “lead-from-the-far-rear war managers” have not a clue on how to force asymmetric warfare by little tribal bands into their neat little categories. Here’s what your grim militarists are really all about, other than feathering their nests for a comfortable post-uniformed career and retirement:

      link to guardian.co.uk

      And here’s what happens to anyone who points out the Emperor’s sagging, naked arse, while everyone else exclaims over his marvelous new clothes:

      link to news.yahoo.com

      And gee, what an unpleasant notion that nobody running the Battlespace knows, or cares, what “win” and “victory” and even “success” (other than personal advancement and enrichment) even mean — “we the people” are stupid enough to accept the simple repetition of the mantra “victory is just a few trillion more dollars away.” Fool me once, and all that…

    • If we are using how effective the tools of democracy are in a nation as the metric for what is or is not a “responsible democracy,” than clearly Pakistan’s is weak (as are many developed country democracies). But for me, sovereignty is not the issue since I dislike the concept altogether.

      The real issues is that it just seems unethical for some body to kill people from the sky with no accountability for who they are actually killing. Brookings and many Pakistanis will say civilians are dying 10:1 compared to militants, the ISI will report and the CIA will say no civilians die at all, but at the end of the day, no one actually knows from unbiased sources who is dying. There are no reporters in North Waziristan or in the bombing locations in South Waziristan. Without a responsible accountability mechanism of civilian:militant deaths, I feel I am fully within my rights to just assume the worst. Thus, in my eyes, drones suck.

      Sidenote:
      Finance Ministry says the War on Terror has cost Pakistan $68 billion.
      link to deccanherald.com
      Imagine if Musharraf was never told, “your with us or against us,” and the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan never came into existence. Maybe some of that $68 billion would have been useful for an infant democracy that has faced tons of developing world problems that will only be compounded by global warming and water scarcity.

  3. If Pakistan can’t accept our military-industrial-intelligence-exceptionalist doctrine of absolute sovereignty for the USA and limited (per USA determination) sovereignty for all other nations, then they should just throw us and our droning out – please.

    Of course Yemen never stood a chance. We’re taking advantage of their civil strife to have our way with drone attacks for any hot tip that happens to end up in the CIA’s in-basket.

    Somalia….

    Imagine our reaction if Mexico sent special forces teams into the US to find and eliminate gun dealers and runners supplying Mexican drug cartels with weapons. They could make a good case that our fealty to the 2nd Amendment prevents us from taking vigorous action to halt the transactions.

  4. Your points are well taken and well made, and I agree that we need a severe overhaul of our whole paramilitary complex.

    Still, if we accept on face value the claims and counterclaims from both sides, we’re left to suppose that half a dozen ordinary guys figured out what the entire Pakistani bureaucracy could not.

  5. Juan,

    I know you mean well and have nice credentials, but there are such serious errors in your column that I can no longer allow them to go unchallenged.

    You state, “Second, the US covert activities in Pakistan have become public and are unpopular among the public, just as the US would not react positively to being spied on, bombed and having rogue operations go bad on city streets– all by even a close ally. as if the US can be compared to any other nation.

    Perhaps you should consult with Sarah Palin or Rick Santorum. They know. They will tell you that The US is the greatest nation in the world! We do not ask other nations for permission to act with impunity on their soil, they ask us for permission to be invaded, because The US is the greatest nation in the world!

    I feel very strongly that you should consider your remarks very carefully before posting again, and like Sarah Palin, I feel other things too!

    It’s too bad Douglas Feith has gone onto other enterprises, for he could have sent US troops to Bolivia, or one of the -guays!!!!

    (This has been a satire)

    PS Abortions are bad, starving nursing mothers is good.

  6. President Obama is treating Pakistan like President Nixon treated Cambodia or Laos. Same for Yemen. We have a President who just makes war with no Congressional approval when he decides to make war. There is no reason for America to be continually bombing Pakistan or Libya or Yemen.

  7. “If the US had evidence to that effect, it surely would have deployed it by now.”

    Juan,

    Do you mean publicly or through backdoor channels?

  8. ‘Oklahoma, which has banned sharia, should be advised.’

    I love you Juan. Thanks for all the good reads, insight, and humor.

  9. Talking about Pakistan’s sovereignty is at best disingenuous. As long as they harbor the terrorist groups that are fighting us in Afghanistan they have no sovereignty.

    This is a repeat of our mindset it Vietnam. Can’t bomb/insert troops in Laos/Cambodia. We should not honor any safe haven.

    • Those who learn nothing from burning their hands on a hot stove ought to have their feet shoved in the fire too.

      Where is there a “safe haven” from the essential nature of “US” activities on the global scale, which Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler so accurately described as a “RACKET,” and various military officers and Sneaky Petes bothered by fits of conscience since Butler have so honestly and clearly limned as nothing more than hired thuggery for a limited set of very powerful business interests?

      What did YOU do in the Cold War, Daddy?

      • You quote Butler as though he was an authority.

        What would he know?

        He only served for decades, and was awarded the highest medal possible for heroism three times, and was renowned for integrity and honor.

  10. The mention of spies operating covertly in the U.S. by allies wouldn’t be tolerated, misses the Israelis doing just that. Also, the discovery & conviction of civilians working towards that end, has taken place. Yet, even with the Israelis now selling American made & provided military technology to the Chinese, the U.S. Government still backs them, the Israelis. They are not friends of the U.S.A., nor are they friends of the American Jews, who give financial support.

  11. Had our raid into Pakistan’s territory ended by finding out that bin Laden wasn’t taking shelter there, we would certainly owe Pakistan an apology and people in Pakistan would certainly be correct in expressing outrage and feeling insulted.
    But that’s not what we learned and the Pakistanis should be feeling ashamed and apologetic. Any anger that they have out to be directed at their own government, military and security services.

    Islamabad may have powerful interests, but some of them run counter to our own.
    Repairing our relationship IS important, but not absolutely important. If Pakistan wants the relationship repaired, it’ll be repaired. But we owe them little, certainly less than they owe.

  12. “The United States needs to put things like drone attacks in the hands of the Department of Defense rather than in those of the CIA, so that they are not covert operations but rather elements of war-fighting.”

    If it’s war fighting you want, then it would require congressional approval. If it isn’t approved by Congress then it’s covert operations, no matter which agency does the bombing and killing. Likewise with the operations in Libya. If it were Bush doing this then the liberals would be screaming murder. Where the h3ll is our anti war movement?

    • Yes, I agree about the need for Congressional approval. Everything is still being done on the basis of the 2002 congressional authorization for the ‘war on terror.’

  13. However, we know from earlier stories in the Guardian and elsewhere, that we do actually have bilateral agreements on covert operations, such as the one that took out Bin Ladin, for over decade now.

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