In Seoul today for an international nuclear security summit, President Obama met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The meeting was viewed by many as an opportunity to bring the two nations closer together while the parliament in Pakistan reviews how to move forward in re-establishing cooperation between the two countries in counterterrorism efforts. Remarkably, ISAF Commander General John Allen appears to be doing his best to undermine these talks, appearing at the Brookings Institution yesterday to reprise divisive remarks delivered by Admiral Michael Mullen just before he retired as Chair of the Joint Chiefs last September.
As a reminder, here is the remark from Mullen that set off a firestorm in Pakistan last year:
In a scathing and unprecedented public condemnation of Pakistan, Admiral Mike Mullen said the country’s main intelligence agency ISI was actively supporting Haqqani network militants blamed for an assault on the US embassy in Kabul last week.
The Haqqani network is probably the most dangerous faction in the Afghan Taliban and founded by a CIA asset turned al Qaeda ally. During the 1980s, the CIA funneled arms and cash to the Haqqanis to counter Soviet forces.
“The Haqqani Network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Mullen told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.
That comment dominated US-Pakistan relations until the US attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops at a border station in November overshadowed it and relations between the two countries reached a new low. Now, as the countries work toward re-establishing better relations, Allen ham-handedly re-runs Mullen’s remark by claiming he won’t mention it:
“In this forum I can’t really speculate on why the ISI does anything with respect to the Haqqanis. I don’t think we should be surprised that they have a relationship, that relationship with the ISI and a number of these organisations goes back a very long time,” he said.
But he added that the fact these relationships exist are not of particular surprise. “We shouldn’t be surprised that they have a relationship, I would not speculate on what specific operational support they have or whether they are an actual arm. Continue reading
Two major steps toward stability in Pakistan and restoration of relations with the United States have taken place, as President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan yesterday while liaison officers have now returned to the border coordination posts from which they were withdrawn as part of the response to the November 26 NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops. NATO supply routes remain blocked, however. In a very interesting move, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has been forced to submit a statement and to appear before the Abbotabad Commission. The Commission is seeking information on visas issued by the Washington embassy during his tenure as Ambassador.
Despite the earlier statements that Zardari would take two weeks of rest before resuming his duties, Zardari yesterday returned to Pakistan from Dubai:
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned home from medical treatment in Dubai to face rising tension between his civilian government and the military over a memo accusing the country’s generals of plotting a coup.
It’s not clear when the deeply unpopular leader who has uneasy ties with the army will return to work. He flew into the southern city of Karachi after treatment for a heart condition.
It would appear that Zardari immediately took up at least ceremonial duties:
State television showed him at his residence, looking relaxed as he met senior provincial officials.
Multiple media reports had addressed the fact that Zardari and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani had talked on the phone prior to Zardari’s return. An article today by Dawn provides more details on that conversation: Continue reading
As I noted yesterday, Josh Rogin has been doing outstanding work on the issue now rocking Pakistan, a memo purportedly sent from the highest levels of the Pakistani civilian government seeking US support for shutting down the branch of Pakistan’s ISI that deals with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and weakening Pakistan’s military. Now that Rogin has confirmed existence of the memo (and today has even provided a copy of it), I’d like to return to the figure who got this whole scandal started, Mansoor Ijaz. Here is information Rogin dug up regarding Mansoor Ijaz back on November 8, when Michael Mullen was still denying existence of the memo:
This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.
Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between U.S. officials and former Pakistani Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton‘s White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.
In the mid-1990s, Ijaz traveled to Sudan several times and claimed to be relaying messages from the Sudanese regime to the Clinton administration regarding intelligence on bin Laden, who was living there at the time. Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security AdvisorSandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz’s allegations “ludicrous and irresponsible.”
Those are some pretty damning allegations. Before moving to the detail from the source Rogin linked on Ijaz’s attempt to get $15 million from Pakistan in return for securing a positive vote in the House of Representatives for the Brown Amendment back in 1995, it’s worth getting the context for this bill. From the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Continue reading
Back on October 10, Mansoor Ijaz, an American from a Pakistani family, published a remarkable column in Financial Times in which he claimed to have been involved in the passing last May of a memo purportedly from Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari to Michael Mullen, who was at that time Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ijaz described the memo as being prepared out of fears that Pakistan faced an imminent military coup as fallout from the government’s embarrassment over the ease with which the US carried out its mission to kill Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. After Josh Rogin published denials from Mullen on November 8 that Mullen had any knowledge of the memo, Ijaz responded by publishing a number of communications with a Pakistani official from the time period in which the memo was being crafted. These communications are widely believed to have been with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States. In a flurry of action yesterday, Josh Rogin provided confirmation from Mullen that he had indeed received the memo, Pakistan recalled Haqqani for discussions and Haqqani offered to resign.
Unfortunately, the draconian “Terms and Conditions” at Financial Times prevent treatment of their material in the same way sane publications can be excerpted for quotes, so it will be necessary for readers to go through their ridiculous “free registration” process to read the Ijaz column in full at the link above. Suffice it to say that Ijaz described an offer represented as coming from Zardari to eliminate the branch of Pakistan’s secret Interservices Intelligence Agency (ISI) that deals with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Zardari sought US protection for taking such action.
Here is the denial Rogin obtained on November 8 from Mullen’s spokesman, Captian John Kirby:
“Adm. Mullen does not know Mr. Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him,” Kirby told The Cable. “I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him — the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual. And in any case, he did not take any action with respect to our relationship with Pakistan based on any such correspondence … preferring to work at the relationship directly through [Pakistani Army Chief of Staff] Gen. [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani and inside the interagency process.”
Rogin goes on to describe Pakistani denials from that same time period:
Mullen’s denial represents the first official U.S. comment on the Ijaz memo, which since Oct. 10 has mushroomed into a huge controversy in Pakistan. Several parts of Pakistan’s civilian government denied that Ijaz’s memorandum ever existed. On Oct. 30, Zardari spokesman Farhatullah Babar called Ijaz’s op-ed a “fantasy article” and criticized the FT for running it in the first place.
“Mansoor Ijaz’s allegation is nothing more than a desperate bid by an individual, whom recognition and credibility has eluded, to seek media attention through concocted stories,” Babar said. “Why would the president of Pakistan choose a private person of questionable credentials to carry a letter to U.S. officials? Since when Mansoor has become a courier of messages of the president of Pakistan?”
Here is the admission from Kirby that Rogin obtained yesterday on the existence of the memo:
“Adm. Mullen had no recollection of the memo and no relationship with Mr. Ijaz. After the original article appeared on Foreign Policy‘s website, he felt it incumbent upon himself to check his memory. He reached out to others who he believed might have had knowledge of such a memo, and one of them was able to produce a copy of it,” Kirby said. “That said, neither the contents of the memo nor the proof of its existence altered or affected in any way the manner in which Adm. Mullen conducted himself in his relationship with Gen. Kayani and the Pakistani government. He did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later. Therefore, he addressed it with no one.”
Rogin also spoke with Husain Haqqani:
In an interview late on Wednesday afternoon, Washington time, Haqqani confirmed to The Cable that he will travel to Islamabad and has sent a letter to Zardari offering his resignation.
“At no point was I asked by you or anyone in the Pakistani government to draft a memo and at no point did I draft or deliver such a memo,” Haqqani said that he had written in his letter to Zardari.
“I’ve been consistently vilified as being against the Pakistani military even though I have only opposed military intervention in political affairs,” Haqqani said that he wrote. “It’s not easy to operate under the shadow of innuendo and I have not been named by anyone so far, but I am offering to resign in the national interest and leave that to the will of the president.”
Rogin goes on to speculate on the possibility that Zardari may sacrifice Haqqani in order to quell the controversy surrounding the memo, but from Haqqani’s statements Rogin provided, it does not appear that Haqqani will go quietly.
Dawn, which is usually considered to be closely aligned with Pakistan’s military, described yesterday’s events in this way:
A senior diplomatic source, when asked to comment on reports Ambassador Haqqani had sent his resignation to the president, said: “We cannot call it a resignation. He has sent a letter to prove that he is not guilty.”
In his message, the ambassador is believed to have written that he was not responsible for the letter that allegedly sought US support for sacking the ISI and army chiefs. The ambassador offered to resign if proven guilty.
Haqqani left his office at lunch and did not return. Before leaving, he sent an email to dozens of Pakistani journalists, giving details of a news conference he addressed in the morning on ties with US.
Earlier in the day, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government had summoned Ambassador Haqqani to Islamabad to learn more about a letter ‘falsely’ attributed to the president.
The Express Tribune chose merely to run a Reuters article that rehashes Rogin’s revelations (without citing him).
It will be very interesting to see what unfolds when Haqqani arrives in Islamabad.
For just over a month, the US and Pakistan have been struggling to deal with tensions created by former Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee where he stated flatly that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency directly aids militants who attack US interests in Afghanistan. Wednesday night, BBC Two aired part one of its “Secret Pakistan” documentary, providing detailed evidence that supports Mullen’s accusations.
From BBC News, we get some details on the disclosures in the documentary:
Pakistan has repeatedly denied the claims. But the BBC documentary series Secret Pakistan has spoken to a number of middle-ranking – and still active – Taliban commanders who provide detailed evidence of how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.
“For a fighter there are two important things – supplies and a place to hide,” said one Taliban commander, who fights under the name Mullah Qaseem. “Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly, they provide us with weapons.”
Another commander, Najib, says: “Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan and increased operations here, so Pakistan’s support for us increased as well.”
He says his militia received a supply truck with “500 landmines with remote controls, 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 2000 to 3000 grenades… AK-47s, machine-guns and rockets”.
Reuters also describes some of the revelations from the program:
Other Taliban commanders described how they and their fighters were, and are, trained in a network of camps on Pakistani soil.
According to a commander using the name Mullah Azizullah, the experts running the training are either members of the ISI or have close links to it.
“They are all the ISI’s men. They are the ones who run the training. First they train us about bombs; then they give us practical guidance,” he said.
The BBC News article also quotes CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who prepared a review of US intelligence on ISI involvement with militants. Riedel told BBC that the ISI actively supports Taliban militants that carry out actions in Afghanistan. Riedel also claimed that US drone attacks are now more successful because Pakistan is not given advance warning: Continue reading
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA Director David Petraeus will be in Islamabad today for talks amid somewhat calmer US-Pakistan relations and to set the stage for a possible negotiated end to hostilities in Afghanistan. At the same time, NATO has been conducting raids for about a week on the Afghanistan side of the border with Pakistan, attempting to rid the area of members of the Haqqani network.
The previously escalated rhetorical battle between the US and Pakistan has been on a calming trajectory since reaching its highpoint when Joint Chiefs Chair Mullen claimed that the Haqqani network was a virtual arm of Pakistan’s ISI. Amid these calming relations, Clinton arrives in Islamabad today after a visit to Kabul.
The visit to Afghanistan was aimed in part at boosting Afghanistan’s efforts to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Those negotiations were dealt a severe setback when Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief negotiator for Afghanistan, was killed last month by a suicide bomber. As the Washington Post points out, the US and Afghanistan have not always agreed on how to proceed in the negotiations:
Clinton, who traveled to Kabul after visits to Libya and Oman, was scheduled to meet Thursday with President Hamid Karzai and other government and parliamentary leaders. Her trip comes at a time of increased tensions between U.S. and Afghan officials over how to pursue peace with the radical Islamist Taliban movement after a decade-long insurgency.
U.S. officials are pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban as a crucial step toward ending the conflict and have engaged in secret parallel talks with Taliban leaders, so far without success.
Karzai, who has criticized the secret U.S. talks, has urged a greater role for Pakistan in the reconciliation process, noting that many of the key Taliban commanders use Pakistan’s lawless tribal region as a base. The State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters, said Clinton “agrees with President Karzai that Pakistani cooperation is critical.”
Note that while differing on their approaches to negotiating with the Taliban, both Afghanistan and the US agree that Pakistan must do more to control militants, especially the Haqqani network. However, the accusations of providing safe havens for the Haqqanis now seem to flow both directions: Continue reading
There are new developments this morning in the latest war of words between the US and Pakistan. Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports that an official familiar with what transpired claims that the head of Pakistan’s ISI informed CIA chief David Petraeus last week that should the US take unilateral military action against the Haqqani network in Pakistan, then Pakistan “will be forced to retaliate”. At the same time, anonymous sources are telling the Washington Post that Joint Chiefs Chair Michael Mullen’s remarks last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee were “overstated”. That is especially significant since the Express Tribune article notes that Mullen’s remarks played a role in the ISI getting to the point of issuing its warning to the CIA.
From the Express Tribune:
The effort to ensure that diplomacy and calmer heads prevail at a time of fragile relations between Pakistan and the United States is on. However, the effort notwithstanding, Islamabad has made it clear to Washington that, if it comes down to it, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate if American forces attempt to launch a unilateral strike on the country’s tribal belt.
The message was personally delivered by Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) Chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief General David Petraeus during his recent trip to Washington, said an official familiar with the development.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that Pasha had informed his counterpart that the Pakistani people will not tolerate any US misadventure and in that case the government will be left with no other option but to retaliate.
Senior ISI members, the official said, had felt ‘betrayed’ by the blunt assessment of the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen that the spy agency had links with the Afghan Taliban-allied Haqqani network. In a stinging remark, Mullen accused ISI of supporting one of the most feared Afghan insurgent groups to target US forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The article goes on to point out that numerous high level meetings between US and Pakistani officials continue.
Meanwhile, back in the US:
Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington, according to American officials involved in U.S. policy in the region.
The internal criticism by the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to challenge Mullen openly, reflects concern over the accuracy of Mullen’s characterizations at a time when Obama administration officials have been frustrated in their efforts to persuade Pakistan to break its ties to Afghan insurgent groups.
It turns out that the primary evidence linking the US Embassy attack and the Haqqani network is not as clear-cut as some in Washington were claiming. Although Mullen claims to have been unaware of the cell phone evidence when he made his remarks, cell phones found on some of the attackers are widely cited as evidence of close Haqqani network-ISI coordination in the attack:
One official said the phones were used to make repeated calls to numbers associated with the Haqqani network, as well as presumed “ISI operatives.” But the official declined to explain the basis for that conclusion.
The senior Pentagon official treated the assertion with skepticism, saying the term “operatives” covers a wide range of supposed associates of the ISI. “Does it mean the same Haqqani numbers [also found in the phones], or is it actually uniformed officers” of Pakistan’s spy service?
There will undoubtedly be several more twists and turns to this story over the next few weeks, but for now it appears that the US is making a small effort to walk back its most incendiary comments while Pakistan is digging in more firmly on its position.
The dramatic accusations made by Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen in yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing provoked immediate, strong reactions from Pakistan. Here is how the Washington Post described Mullen’s testimony:
Last week’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a Sept. 10 truck bombing that killed five Afghans and wounded 77 NATO troops were “planned and conducted” by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network “with ISI support,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The ISI is the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
“The government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI” have chosen “to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy” to maintain leverage over Afghanistan’s future, Mullen testified during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also testified.
As seen in the video above, Mullen’s remarks provoked a sharp response from Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar:
“You will lose an ally,” Khar told Geo TV in New York in remarks broadcast on Friday.
“You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States’) own cost.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also chimed in. From GEO:
The United States should take care of the feelings of 180 million people of Pakistan while issuing statements or commenting on important issues, said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday.
He said, “Our 180 million people want to defend their motherland and its sovereignty”.
“US cannot live with us and without us,” he said and added “thus the United States should avoid sending ‘wrong messages’ which would affect the bilateral ties”.
From these comments, it is clear that both Khar and Gilani are warning the US that Pakistan could withdraw all cooperation if the war of words continues.
I will stand by the prediction I made yesterday:
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.
Stay tuned for further developments.
The story of the day is from Michael Hastings, fresh off winning a Polk Award for his reporting on the insubordination of key members of Stanley McChrystal’s staff. In today’s story, he describes how Lieutenant General William Caldwell ordered a PsyOp unit to manipulate Senators–including John McCain, Carl Levin, Jack Reed, and Al Franken–to support increased troops and funding for training Afghan soldiers. When the commander of that unit objected, he was investigated and disciplined. (See Jim White’s post on it here.)
It’s a troubling picture of the extent to which individual members of our military will push the war in Afghanistan, knowing how unpopular it is in the States.
But there’s an equally troubling story reporting on the disdain with which our military treats public opinion. Josh Rogin reports on a regularly scheduled meeting between the Pakistani and American military in Oman that took place on Tuesday; because of the Raymond Davis affair, the meeting had heightened importance. The US was represented by, among others, Admiral Mullen and Generals Petraeus, Olson (SOCOM) and Mattis (CENTCOM).
As Rogin describes it, the Americans, whose views were represented in a written summary from General Jehangir Karamat with confirmation from another Pakistani participant, believed the two militaries had to restore the Pakistani-American relationship before it got completely destroyed by the press and the public.
“The US had to point out that once beyond a tipping point the situation would be taken over by political forces that could not be controlled,” Karamat wrote about the meeting, referring to the reported split between the CIA and the Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) that erupted following the Davis shooting.
“[T]he US did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a free fall under media and domestic pressures,” Karamat wrote. “These considerations drove it to ask the [Pakistani] Generals to step in and do what the governments were failing to do-especially because the US military was at a critical stage in Afghanistan and Pakistan was the key to control and resolution.”
“The militaries will now brief and guide their civilian masters and hopefully bring about a qualitative change in the US-Pakistan Relationship by arresting the downhill descent and moving it in the right direction.” [my emphasis]
In short, the US military wants to make sure that military intervenes to counteract the fury of the people and the press over the Davis affair.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have the military ensure close relations with this nuclear-armed unstable state. I’m cognizant of how, in different situations (notably the Egyptian uprising), close ties between our military and others’ have helped to foster greater democracy. As Dana Priest’s The Mission makes clear our military has increasingly become the best functioning “diplomatic” service we’ve got. And though I think a great deal of stupidity and arrogance got Davis into the pickle he’s in, I certainly back our government’s efforts to get him returned to our country (Rogin also provides details of the plan to do that).
But particularly coming as it does in the same theater and on the same day as news of PsyOps being waged against my Senator, I’m troubled that our military isn’t more concerned with reining in the behavior that has rightly ticked off so many Pakistanis, rather than coordinating with the Pakistani military to make sure the people of Pakistan’s concerns are ignored.