A vitally important loya jirga, or grand gathering, is underway in Afghanistan with leaders from all over the country converging to share their views on the future of the Afghanistan-US relationship. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced that a prerequisite for any deal with the US is an end to night raids. Perhaps because of the importance of the meetings in Afghanistan, today saw a particularly large drone attack just across the border in Pakistan, with at least 15 killed in the attack. Raymond Davis also makes a surprise re-appearance in today’s news, with former Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi providing more details on his resignation when he was under pressure for refusing to grant diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis.
The loya jirga starts today and the Taliban has vowed to attack it:
About 2,000 Afghan community and political leaders will gather on Wednesday in Kabul under tight security for four days of deliberations on the country’s most pressing issues, including ties with main ally the United States.
The meeting, known as a loya jirga, or grand assembly, cannot make laws, and whatever it decides has to be approved by parliament, but the subjects up for debate are among the most sensitive: the scope of a U.S. military presence after a 2014 deadline for foreign combat troops to leave and the idea of peace talks with the Taliban.
The Taliban, who have long fought to oust foreign forces, have dismissed the meeting as a ruse to cement what they see as foreign interference and have already tried to disrupt it. They have vowed to target participants and said they had a copy of the jirga security plan.
On Tuesday, noting the felony charge Raymond Davis faces in Colorado over a parking lot fight, I asked what happened to the investigation the US promised regarding Davis killing two Pakistanis in Lahore earlier this year. It turns out I’m not alone in asking that question. Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post reports that Pakistan has made a formal request for an update on the investigation. In other Pakistan news breaking this afternoon, we learn that a commission in Pakistan has urged filing of conspiracy and high treason charges against the doctor who assisted the CIA by setting up a fake immunization program in order to gain access to the suspected compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
It turns out that Pakistan asked about the Davis investigation a day before I did. From DeYoung’s post:
In an Oct. 3 diplomatic note to Justice and the State Department, Ambassador Husain Haqqani referenced “the ongoing investigation” and asked that “the latest status in the matter may kindly be conveyed to the Embassy.” Haqqani said no reply had yet been received.
Asked the same question, Justice spokesperson Laura Sweeney declined to comment on the department’s behalf.
DeYoung also provides further background on the initial steps taken in the US to start the Davis investigation:
In a May 26 letter to Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Mary Ellen Warlow, director of the Criminal Division of Justice’s international affairs office, said that the department was “currently investigating” the Lahore shooting and requested that Pakistan “take steps to preserve all evidence relating to these events” and set up a liaison officer at the embassy to handle the matter.
That, Pakistan says, is the last it heard.
Note that this letter to Pakistan came over two months after Davis was released in mid-March. If that letter was the last Pakistan heard about the investigation, it seems safe to assume that no US investigators have been to Pakistan to examine the evidence Pakistan was instructed to preserve or to interview witnesses. Also, it remains unclear whether the investigation into Davis’ actions also is to include investigation into the vehicle which struck and killed a pedestrian after it was dispatched from the consulate in Lahore to rescue Davis.
Voice of America brings us the news on the recommendation of treason charges against the Pakistani doctor:
A Pakistani commission said Thursday that the government should file conspiracy and high treason charges against Shakeel Afridi.
Afridi is accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help U.S. intelligence obtain DNA samples of bin Laden and his family.
The Pakistani government set up the commission to investigate how U.S. forces managed to track down bin Laden and carry out the operation without Pakistan’s prior knowledge.
The article goes on to inform us that this same commission also interviewed Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who heads Pakistan’s main intelligence organization, the ISI. In addition, the commission interviewed bin Laden’s wives and children. The commission is headed by a Supreme Court judge, but it is not clear how binding its recommendations will be.
Raymond Davis is to make a second appearance in a Colorado courtroom today, as prosecutors have upgraded the assault charge against him from misdemeanor to felony level. The charge arises from an argument and fight over a parking space at a suburban Denver bagel shop on Saturday morning. While the descriptions that have emerged of the fight suggest that it is appropriate for Davis to face this charge, the appearance of Davis in a criminal proceeding raises a larger question. Back when Davis was still in Pakistani custody, one of the arguments presented by the US in trying to obtain his release was that Davis would face investigation and potential prosecution for the killing of two Pakistanis once he was back in the US. Davis was released March 16, but no reports of him facing even an investigation, let alone charges, from the killings in Pakistan have emerged.
The Los Angeles Times has details on the Saturday fight:
The fight was reported Saturday outside Einstein Bros. Bagels in Highlands Ranch. Authorities have released few details about the fight and did not identify the other person involved, and a Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman did not return calls or email late Monday.
But KUSA-TV in Denver reported that Jeff Maes was the man allegedly assaulted by Davis. Maes told KUSA-TV that the fight began over a parking space in the crowded lot about 9 a.m.
“Instead of going by and saying, ‘Hey that was my spot,’ he goes behind me, rolls his window down and starts cussing me out,” Maes said.
He added that the altercation quickly escalated as his wife and two young daughters watched.
“I said, ‘You need to relax,’ ” Maes said. “I said, ‘This is stupid,’ I turned, and he hit me.”
Just one month before Davis was released, Senator John Kerry traveled to Pakistan to lobby high level Pakistani government figures for Davis’ release. One of the enticements Kerry offered was that Davis would face investigation for killing the two Pakistanis in Lahore once he returned to the US:
The Guardian described Kerry’s efforts:
Senator John Kerry, the former US presidential candidate, is holding high-level meetings in Pakistan in an attempt to defuse a diplomatic crisis involving a US embassy worker who shot dead two Pakistanis last month.
Kerry has scheduled talks with the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, over the case of Raymond Davis, which has pushed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan to fever pitch.
The article then gives Kerry’s assurance that Davis would face investigation in the US:
Ahead of today’s discussions, Kerry expressed regret over the deaths and promised that Davis would face a US criminal investigation if he were to be released by the Pakistani government.
“It is customary in an incident like this for our government to conduct a criminal investigation. That is our law. And I can give you the full assurance of our government today that that will take place,” Kerry told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore. “So there is no such thing as a suggestion that something is out of law or that America thinks somehow we’re not subject to the law.”
It would appear that Kerry was just blowing smoke and that at least when it comes to Davis killing two people in Pakistan, Davis was indeed “not subject to the law”. At the very least, if the investigation Kerry promised is ongoing, it is being conducted in utter secrecy. However, it appears that Davis is not above the law when it comes to the local authorities in suburban Denver.
Kill two people in a foreign country, stirring up massive anti-American protests in the process, and the government will spare no expense in freeing you with no further consequences, but punch a man over a parking space in an Einstein Brothers parking lot and face the full fury of the law. Ain’t justice in the US grand?
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: Continue reading
US-Pakistani relations really didn’t need this right now. Pakistan arrested–and then released, apparently because the person’s claim to have diplomatic status checked out–an American with high tech gear allegedly snooping around a nuke lab.
The American diplomat, purportedly called Matthew Bennett, was found near Fateh Jang by ISI and MI personnel who had been watching him for a while.
He was found taking photographs in an area which, according to officials and locals, served as a secret passage for the transportation of sensitive materials to the Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta.
They found some neat toys on him, too.
Let’s see. We had the first outed CIA station chief last year. Followed by the six week confrontation over Raymond Davis, which may have resulted in the exposure of hundreds more spooky contractors. Followed by a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that–the Pakistanis claim, at least, took them by complete surprise. In apparent response, a second CIA station chief was outed. And now someone apparently working under diplomatic cover gets caught taking tourist photos of an passage to Pakistan’s nuclear lab?
Is someone keeping count?
So we got Osama bin Laden. And in exchange, Pakistan’s nuclear program will go completely dark?
It’s probably just a coincidence that the US finally got Osama bin Laden at a time when its relationship with Pakistan is at a post-9/11 low. President Obama said the discovery of OBL came from a lead first generated last August.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Plans for the operation intensified over a series of Principals meetings in March and April.
The president chaired no fewer than five national security council meetings on this topic – on March 14th, March 29th, April 12th, April 19th and April 28th.
“When a case had been made that this was a critical target we began to prepare this mission in conjunction with the US military,” a senior administration official said.
At 8:20am on Friday, April 29th in the Diplomatic Room, President Obama met with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House chief of staff William Daley, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough and gave the order for the operation.
But we did not give Pakistan a heads up.
Which is why the details Jane Perlez lays out–notably, that OBL’s hideout was nearly adjacent to the Pakistani equivalent of West Point, where General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani proclaimed victory over terrorism last month–raise so many questions about whether Pakistan knew OBL was hiding out in this compound.
[OBL] was killed in Abbottabad, a city of about 500,000, in a large and highly secured compound that, a resident of the city said, sits virtually adjacent to the grounds of a military academy. In an ironic twist, the academy was visited just last month by the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, where he proclaimed that Pakistan had “cracked” the forces of terrorism, an assessment that was greeted with skepticism in Washington.
Update: Here’s an ABC video from the mansion, also showing how close the military academy is.
And Perlez describes the curious silence from top Pakistani leaders about OBL’s death.
After the killing of Bin Laden became public in Pakistan, an ISI official confirmed his death but then insisted, contrary to President Obama’s statement, that he was killed in a joint United States-Pakistani operation, apparently an effort to show that Pakistan knew about the operation in advance.
On Monday, General Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, and the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, met in Islamabad but had not issued any statement more than six hours after President Obama’s announcement of Bin Laden’s death.
Finally, Perlez notes that we picked up a key al Qaeda operative in Abbottabad in February, just as the Raymond Davis was souring our relations with Pakistan significantly.
A Qaeda operative, Umar Patek, an Indonesian involved in the Bali bombings in 2002, was captured in a house in Abbottabad in February where he was protected by a Qaeda courier, who worked as a clerk at the city post office.
As relations with Pakistan have grown strained over the last several months, they have insisted we just need to trust them. Until we learn how it is that they missed this mansion specially built for OBL’s family, it seems further suspicion, not trust, is the appropriate stance.
To a degree, this reminds me of the Joshua Claus moment, when DOD banned reporters like Carol Rosenberg and Michelle Shephard because they uttered the name “Joshua Claus” in their coverage of his testimony in Omar Khadr’s trial. (Shephard had interviewed him previously, so they were basically asking her to forget information she had gathered independently to be able to cover Gitmo.)
White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news.
The Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci – who, like many contemporary reporters, has a phone with video capabilities on her at all times – pulled out a small video camera last week and shot some protesters interrupting an Obama fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel.
She was part of a “print pool” – a limited number of journalists at an event who represent their bigger hoard colleagues – which White House press officials still refer to quaintly as “pen and pad” reporting.
As with coverage of Omar Khadr’s trial, the Obama Administration seems to be demanding that journalists abdicate their jobs and their instincts to play by the rules.
But the event reminds me of something else: how the White House asked (and persuaded) all the big US outlets to suppress the widely discussed news that Raymond Davis was a spy, even while publications overseas and dirty fucking hippie bloggers were reporting on it.
As the account of Marinucci’s treatment makes clear, the rules they want to enforce on pool reporting basically put her at a disadvantage to everyone else in the room who had and used a cell phone video.
Carla cannot do her job to the best of her ability if she can’t use all the tools available to her as a journalist. The public still sees the videos posted by protesters and other St. Regis attendees, because the technology is ubiquitous. But the Obama Administration apparently wants to give the distinct advantage to citizen witnesses at the expense of professionals.
While there’s a bit of professional snobbery here, it is entirely justified. The White House bizarrely imagines it can manage Obama’s image by imposing rules on journalists it can’t impose on others. Not only does that not do a damn thing to prevent videos like this from getting out. It profoundly corrupts the role of journalists, imposing requirements that ensure they offer only a highly scripted and obviously false view of an event.
It’s simply not fair to require that journalists not tell stories that are already out there in the public sphere. That turns them, once and for all, into stenographers. That’s not what our country needs from presidential press coverage.
When the US detained the Kuwaiti-Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and interrogated him for years (including at least a month of harsh torture), he revealed a handful of al Qaeda operatives in the US. When Pakistan held the American contractor, Raymond Davis, and–as this NYT article specifies–had Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI interrogate him for 14 days, that appears to have led to the identification of hundreds of Americans working in Pakistan on activities not authorized by the Pakistani government.
As the article reveals, there are four things we’re doing in Pakistan to which the Pakistanis object:
Now, we knew all of this was going on. Of course we were tracking Pakistan’s nukes; public reports often optimistically (probably over-optimistically) claim we could gain control of their program if the government was ever overturned. The Pakistanis had to know we were infiltrating Lashkar-e-Taiba, since that’s what David Headley was supposedly doing when he participated in the Mumbai bombing.
And it certainly seems like Pakistan knew the details and many of the people involved as well.
But this article provides some numbers. It explains that 335 Special Forces, contractors, and CIA officers are now being sent home. Of that, 40 to 80 are members of the Special Forces who exceeded the quota of 120 Special Forces Pakistan allowed us. The remaining 255-315 must be a combination of contractors and CIA officers whose purpose the US has not shared with the Pakistanis. That’s in addition to whatever contractors we withdrew after Davis was captured.
For the moment, it appears this will shut down two parts of the American war in Pakistan. The US threatened to shut down the training program.
The request by General Kayani to cut back the number of Special Operations forces by up to 40 percent would result in the closure of the training program begun last year at Warsak, close to Peshawar, an American official said.
The United States spent $23 million on a building at Warsak, and $30 million on equipment and training there.
Informed by American officials that the Special Operations training would end even with the partial reduction of 40 percent, General Kayani remained unmoved, the American official said.
And the Pakistanis are asking that the drone program be stopped or, at least, curtailed to its original scope.
In addition to reducing American personnel on the ground, General Kayani has also told the Obama administration that its expanded drone campaign had gotten out of control, a Pakistani official said. Given the reluctance or inability of the Pakistani military to root out Qaeda and Taliban militants from the tribal areas, American officials have turned more and more to drone strikes, drastically increasing the number of strikes last year.The drone campaign, which is immensely unpopular among the Pakistani public, had morphed into the sole preserve of the United States, the Pakistani official said, since the Americans were no longer sharing intelligence on how they were choosing their targets. The Americans had also extended the strikes to new parts of the tribal region, like the Khyber area near the city of Peshawar.
“Kayani would like the drones stopped,” said another Pakistani official who met with the military chief recently. “He believes they are used too frequently as a weapon of choice, rather than as a strategic weapon.” Short of that, General Kayani was demanding that the campaign return to its original, more limited scope and remain focused narrowly on North Waziristan, the prime militant stronghold.
Ultimately, it seems like our efforts were getting close to elements in the ISI and Pakistani military who were involved in what we deem militant activity. We were doing so without sharing our intelligence with the Pakistanis (which has often led to militants being tipped off). So now the Pakistanis are demanding we share that information again.
But negotiations don’t appear to be going well. ISI head Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha left early yesterday from meetings with Leon Panetta and Mike Mullen.
Though the spokesman Marie Harf said that the cooperation between the two agencies remained on “solid footing”, the Pakistani general reportedly cut short his visit abruptly to return home.
Both the US and Pakistani officials did not give any reasons for Shuja curtailing his talks here.
There’s one more thing about this story: US reporting on it, at least, seems to pretend that Davis was captured out of chance. The NYT even repeats the implausible “mugging” story. I’d say that’s unlikely.
Update: Fixed the numbers for special forces personnel. I think.
Last we heard about the families of Raymond Davis’ victims, they were held in custody until they agreed to accept the blood money Pakistan offered on our behalf.
Things are looking up for the family members, though. Eighteen of them have been flown to UAE to be resettled.
A chartered plane carrying 18 family members of Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad, the two men killed by Davis, left the Chaklala air base on Friday at 4:30 pm for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), sources said.
The plane landed at the Dubai airport from where the 18 people proceeded to Abu Dhabi where two houses have been rented for them.
In addition, four family members will be granted green cards for the US, with the possibility that the rest of the family will later be sponsored in.
Four American Green Cards and two residences in the US have also been arranged for the two families.
According to the deal, four persons from the two families would first go to the US after completing visa formalities. Later, other family members would be considered for permanent residence in the US, the sources said.
Click through for the names of the (?) consular employees who negotiated the blood money.
It appears the court in question may be a bit suspicious about the inclusion of resettlement and green cards in sharia, because it is now demanding an explanation.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed CCPO Lahore Aslam Tareen to appear in court on March 22 and present a report on the disappearance of the families of Faizan Haider and Faheem, the two young men who were shot dead by CIA contractor Raymond Davis on January 27, DawnNews reported.
Now, I’m all in favor of the families getting some kind of due compensation for the killing of their family member; and they may indeed be at some physical risk themselves at this point.
But I am a little bit worried about what all the American haters are going to say when they learn blood money payments under sharia law now also come with US green cards.
As Jim White reported this morning, Raymond Davis has been released after the families of his victims were paid blood money per Sharia law.
We’ve really gotten to bizarro-land when a possible Blackwater contractor has been saved by Sharia law.
But wait! Hillary says we didn’t pay the blood money ourselves.
QUESTION: Okay, we’ll jump right into it. Again, I’ll try not to take up too much of your time. Before I ask about Egypt, I’m obliged to ask you about one other thing – Raymond Davis. Can you explain why, in your view, it was a wise idea in the long term to pay blood money for Davis’s release?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, the United States did not pay any compensation. The families of the victims of the incident on January 27th decided to pardon Mr. Davis. And we are very grateful for their decision. And we are very grateful to the people and Government of Pakistan, who have a very strong relationship with us that we are committed to strengthening.
QUESTION: According to wire reports out of Pakistan, the law minister of the Punjab Province, which is where this took place, says the blood money was paid. Is he mistaken?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’ll have to ask him what he means by that.
QUESTION: And a lawyer involved in the case said it was 2.34 million. There is no money that came from anywhere?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The United States did not pay any compensation.
QUESTION: Did someone else, to your knowledge?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You will have to ask whoever you are interested in asking about that.
Josh Rogin explains what really happened: Pakistan paid our blood money. And we’ll make it up to them … somehow.
The truth is that the Pakistani government paid the victims’ families the $2.3 million and the U.S. promised to reimburse them in the future, according to a senior Pakistani official.
“The understanding is the Pakistani government settled with the family and the U.S. will compensate the Pakistanis one way or the other,” the senior Pakistani official told The Cable.
The U.S. government didn’t want to set a precedent of paying blood money to victims’ families in exchange for the release of U.S. government personnel, the source said, adding that the deal also successfully avoided a ruling on Davis’s claim of diplomatic immunity — an issue that had become a political firestorm in Pakistan.
Now, this is weird on several fronts. The people in the US who would be really opposed to a blood money payment under Sharia law are the same nutcases who have managed to roll back funding of reproductive health using the argument that all money is fungible. If they’re going to argue that money reimbursed by the government (via a health insurance subsidy) is equivalent to a direct payment by the government, then won’t they argue that money reimbursed to Pakistan by the US is equivalent to a Sharia payment directly?
But I’m also fascinated about this given the government’s success at getting the NYT and others to spike reporting on Davis’ CIA ties. The argument then was that “authoritative” reporting on Davis’ CIA ties would put him at risk. But as I pointed out repeatedly, the people who might put him at risk–Pakistani people–already knew this detail.
Well, if our government is so worried about these threats, then isn’t the revelation that the Pakistanis paid the blood money going to endanger the already fragile Asif Zardari government? Or is this just confirmation that the government was worried about Americans finding out about Davis, not Pakistanis?
In news that is probably unrelated (but who knows!?!?!), Hillary has told Wolf Blitzer she’s not coming back for a possible second Obama term (as also reported by Rogin).