Once Again, US Ratchets Up Rhetoric Against Pakistan

The pattern by now is all too familiar.  Once again, the US is ratcheting up its rhetoric against Pakistan.  Earlier instances included the “crisis” when the US killed three Pakistani soldiers and Pakistan responded by closing strategic border crossings.  This was followed by the Raymond Davis fiasco. Then came exchanges of bluster over the US unilateral action that took out Osama bin Laden.  Now, the target of US ire is the cozy relationship between the Haqqani network and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.

Reporting for Reuters, Mark Hosenball and Susan Cornwell tell us this morning that some in the US intelligence community are now assigning a direct role for ISI in the Haqqani network attack on the US embassy in Kabul:

Some U.S. intelligence reporting alleges that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) specifically directed, or urged, the Haqqani network to carry out an attack last week on the U.S. Embassy and a NATO headquarters in Kabul, according to two U.S. officials and a source familiar with recent U.S.-Pakistan official contacts.

The article informs us that the Senate Appropriations Committee has added to the pressure on Pakistan:

The Senate committee approved $1 billion in aid to support counter-insurgency operations by Pakistan’s military, but voted to make this and any economic aid conditional on Islamabad cooperating with Washington against militant groups including the Haqqanis.

A series of high-level meetings between US and Pakistani officials also has taken place over the last week to hammer home these allegations against Pakistan, despite this warning in the Reuters article:

However, U.S. officials cautioned that the information that Pakistan’s spy agency was encouraging the militants was uncorroborated.

A series of articles on the website for Pakistan’s Dawn news agency provides some perspective on the coverage of the issue in Pakistan.  One article provides a forum for Interior Minister Rehman Malik after his meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller yesterday:

Pakistan has promised action against the Haqqani network if the United States provides sufficient intelligence, but denied that the al Qaeda-linked Taliban faction was on Pakistani soil.


The Haqqani network is probably the most dangerous faction in the Afghan Taliban and founded by a CIA asset turned al Qaeda ally.

“I have assured them (the United States) they are not on the Pakistani side (of the border with Afghanistan) but if there is intelligence which is provided by the US we will definitely take action,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Malik spoke to reporters after talks with FBI director Robert Mueller late Wednesday. The minister said Pakistan and the United States were “resolving” together the “irritant” of the Haqqani group issue.

Another article provides comments from Pakistan’s Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar:

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar on Thursday said that US allegations over Pakistan’s support to the Haqqani network were “baseless”, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to DawnNews, Mr Mukhtar said that the allegations levelled at Pakistan were contrary to the facts on the ground.

He further said that if the US had any information pertaining to the Haqqani network, then it should share that intelligence with Pakistan so the country’s authorities could act on it.

Finally, we have an article describing a meeting between the head of ISI and David Petraeus, the new Director of the CIA:

The ISI chief, Gen Shuja Pasha, who left Washington for home on Tuesday night after a meeting with Gen David Petraeus, is believed to have heard directly from the CIA chief that the US wanted an immediate military operation against the network.

Gen Pasha also met another senior Obama administration official before leaving for home but both sides are declining to disclose the official’s name.

“Yes, we heard their point of view but it does not mean that we are going to launch an operation tomorrow,” said a senior Pakistani official aware of the proceedings of these meetings.

Interestingly, this same article goes on to mention that the US is now hinting there could have been a Haqqani (and thus, indirectly, ISI) role in the killing of former Afghan President Rabbani:

Based on current information, Admiral Mullen said he could not confirm that the Haqqanis were behind the death of Prof Rabbani, the senior Afghan official in charge of negotiating with the Taliban.

The usual pattern that has arisen from these rhetorical battles between the US and Pakistan is that once the rhetoric reaches a certain level, various planned high level meetings get called off, perhaps followed by some sort of concrete action such as when Pakistan closed selected border crossings used to transport supplies to US troops in Afghanistan.  Eventually, however, new reasons to cooperate emerge, with the restoration of high level meetings producing a new-found resolve to work together.

Should the US be successful in attaching some sort of cooperation requirement for US funding to flow to Pakistan, look for some sort of token move by Pakistan that will provide even more heated rhetoric.  The situation likely will then be resolved by Pakistan grudgingly cooperating in an action against the Haqqani network.  The most important point to watch for in this current “crisis” will be to see just how high in the Haqqani network Pakistan is willing to go in sacrificing a part of it to the US in order to keep their seemingly endless supply of US funds flowing.


The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today, and the US-Pakistan relationship was addressed in detail, along with the accusations of an ISI-Haqqani network relationship.  From CNN.com:

“The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s intelligence,” Mullen said.

He said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency supported the Haqqani insurgents who planned and executed the attack on the U.S. Embassy and other strikes in Afghanistan. In doing so, Mullen said, the agency is jeopardizing Pakistan’s relations with the United States and Afghanistan. But he added that the solution is not to give up on Pakistan and said a flawed relationship is better than no relationship.

Panetta ascribed the attacks on the embassy and Kabul in general as a significant change in tactics by the insurgents:

“We judge this change in tactics to be a result of a shift in momentum in our favor and a sign of weakness in the insurgency,” Panetta said.

The ball is now in Pakistan’s court once again.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
10 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    The Haqqanis were heroes when they ousted the Russian occupiers, now, not so much. Don’t they realize that this brutal foreign military occupation is different, and in their own good?

    As Mullen has indicated, Pakistan supports Haqqani, and for good reason. The interests of Pakistan and USA particularly diverge, and have for a long time, because Pakistan understandably dislikes the ascendency of Indian influence in Afghanistan which has been promoted by the US. This jeopardizes Pakistan security and Pakistan will not stand for it, nor should it.

    General McChrystal pointed this out as a problem in his August 2009 assessment but nothing has been done about it. The US ally Pakistan is backing forces that are killing US troops with US knowledge, an historical first.

  2. Mary says:

    The info about attributing the Rabbani killing to the Haqqani network is interesting. I left an epu’d comment on your other thread, but it all does seem to be getting very dicey.

    This article by Blooberg’s Businessweek has some “scene setting” background on the assassination.


    What makes things difficult is the interchangeable way in which some stories use the Taliban and Haqqani references. Sometimes Haqqani network operatives are referred to as being Taliban commanders (for example, Sirajuddin Haqqani), although supposedly the Haqqani network is a separate group, but one that has sworn allegiance to the Taliban.

    So it’s not really clear when stories talk about the guy meeting with Rabbani as Taliban if they mean he also had Haqqani links or not. There does seem to be pushback on the Haqqani storyline, though.

    “One U.S. official cautioned that no hard evidence shows that Haqqani’s organization killed Rabbani and said others might be responsible. ” In another story I saw on the Kabul attacks, the lead lines were about the “mounting” evidence of the ISI link to the attacks, while later other sources were buried but were saying that the “mounting” evidence was, apparently, “uncorroborated” which maybe throws a bit of a Curveball over the plate.

    One older bit of info that ties your stories on EWs on drone killings together, is that in early 2010, the CIA killed one of Jalal Haqqani’s son’s, Mohamed (and some associates), with a drone attack in N. Waziristan. Also buried in any stories was the info that this son, Mohamed, probably wan’t an active operative of any kind with the network. “According to local sources Mohammed Haqqani was not actively involved in the movement but his place was used as a hideout for Arab foreign militants.” Which points to the expanding rationales for the drone killings, as well as for the geographic scope of Obama’s war.

    That killing was done right after the CIA bombing and the real rationale might simply have been to let the CIA vent by taking out the son they could find, even if he wasn’t the son that was involved – or not. The truth is, the CIA and all the rest of us aren’t that different from the tribal factions – if we are hurt and scared, we hit out to hurt back.

    Anyway – the CIA/Brennan-Petaes/military/Mullen-Panetta threat to “go after” Haqqani network individuals “in Pakistan” is something they already have done, already did – when they took out Mohamed Haqqani (and associates, whatever that means – I didn’ see them referenced as being Haqqani operatives anywhere).

    In the midst of all of this, too, is the fact that despite his prior rhetoric of talking to nations before undertaking acts of aggression, Republican candidate for, and currently serving, President Obama flat out refused any UN sidelines meeting with the Pakistani PM, who left in frustration.

    OTOH, there won’t be anything as good for Obama’s Republican campaign – and the pockets of his Democratic enemy/allies, than big initiiative of some kind involving Pakistan.

    Robert Grenier had a piece a few days ago talking about how Obama vis a vis the failing Palestinian – Israeli issue. In it and as a by the by, he discusses some sources of US-Pak tension dating back to he Clinton years, when Lockheed “sold” a bunch of planes to Pakistan, pocketed all the money, built the planes, but the US Congress and Exec agencies decided to keep the planes … and the money. Money that Pakistan couldn’t realy afford (unlike the billions “lost” in cash during the GWOT) to just lose.

    Deep wounds, long memories, on all sides of the pentagram. Ours, theirs, our-theirs, their-ours, and other. There have already been, on all sides, a lot of executions that were done to sate the inflamed. Which basically ties your post to bmaz’ post on Troy Davis as well. The best that anyone has been able to say about that execution is that it made McPhail’s mother (and some part of society) happy. But even she is now saying that she feels for Davis’ family (without mentioning the part of society that has empathized with that family) because they are now going through what she went through, they are “feeling what we felt.” And how long before someone decides that needs to bounce back again?

    There just isn’t much light at the end of any of the tunnels.

  3. Mary says:

    BTW – from the Bloomberg story – I think the info on Rabbani’s security personnel not checking out the turban out of “deference” sounds odd, and the fact that the guy was staying for days in the guesthouse and was able to keep his hat-bomb concealed from anyone, also odd. Not wholly improbable, but odd. Also, another story indicated that Rabbani was meeting with two senior Taliban officials, but only one was involved in the bombing. And lastly, the phrasing used in the Bloomberg articla about the guy arriving and telling the council he was a Taliban envoy also seems odd. They just took a guy who wasn’t well known, who had to tell them he was Taliban and an envoy, out to Rabbani? How was his story checked? It would seem like the days spent waiting to meet Rabbani would have had something to do with getting his creds checked – and the US knew nothing about any of that? Curious.

  4. rugger9 says:

    Yes, very convenient indeed. However, politics and war are full of these kinds of conundrums and oddities. we should dig, but don’t expect to find anything.

    Pakistan is also rent with factions, there really isn’t a unified sense of nationhood there. Also, as noted above we have the question of India, and Don is correct in that there will be no peace between these two until Kashmir and other issues [like payback for Bangladesh, ex-East Pakistan] are resolved. So, if at least some of the ISI is involved in the Taliban, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    Really, all the more reason to leave, BUT then Big Oil won’t have security for their Kazakh/Uzbek pipeline project.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Mullen: Pakistanis export violence to Afghanistan

    What an ignorant fool. It is time for him to retire.

    The Pakistanis, obviously, have the view that the US exported violence to Pakistan, which is the correct one, it being Obama’s policy which he announced even as a candidate.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    In 2009 Obama allied the US with a country (Pakistan) which he knew was supporting the killing of US troops, and now Mullen has had an amazing epiphany which he has shared with the congress.

    General McChrystal’s Report
    Aug 30, 2009 (excerpt)

    ‘Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. . .and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI [Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ].”

    “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

    Obama’s speech
    three months later
    Dec 1, 2009 (excerpt)

    Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

    Is there a word for that, that rhymes with reason?

    The ball is now in Pakistan’s court once again.

    The US is currently expanding its Northern Supply Network (NSN) that is bringing more supplies in through Uzbekistan in order to bypass Pakistan. So we can expect a further expansion of AfPak to AfPakUz thanks to these geniuses. Regarding Pakistan, it has a strong, reliable ally in China, a country that also isn’t overly fond of India.

    In other words this Operation Enduring Freedom is after almost ten years is getting more complicated and extensive as it staggers drunkenly on. Meanwhile we have to endure the military spinners making it into something it isn’t. It’s called Strategic Communications.

  7. Mary says:

    So Mullens tells them that the Pak Gov, the ISI, basically is behind the flat out, armed attack, on our embassy – but that’s just evidence of a “flawed” relationship, that is better than no relationship?

    Well, that’s, um, interestng?

    Then Panetta comes in (from his left coast home) and chirps that – hey y’all, an armed attack on our embassy backed by our allies in Pakistan just shows how much we’re “winning.”

    Oh boy.
    “It’s called Strategic Communications” Well, that has the advantage of syllables over “propaganda,” or even, just, like, ya know, “lies.”

  8. pdaly says:

    @Don Bacon:

    Agree in general with your comment but this part about “historical first”

    “The US ally Pakistan is backing forces that are killing
    US troops with US knowledge, an historical first”

    has me thinking the American survivors of the USS Liberty attack by Israel might want to be remembered.

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