Yemen’s Head of Al Qaeda Scrambles to Make Anwar al-Awlaki Al Qaeda’s #3

It’s now a perennial joke. Every time we kill the next Number Three in al Qaeda, we joke about how no one wants to take that guy’s place.

Which was my first impression when I read this bit from ProPublica’s review of what the intelligence from Osama bin Laden’s compound has thus far revealed.

Bin Laden also managed to retain authority over al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen, North Africa and Iraq, the U.S. official said.

“It was not the same degree of detailed involvement, but he played a huge role in leadership,” the U.S. official said.

[snip]

Intelligence gathered months before the raid revealed a tell-tale exchange with the al Qaeda leader in Yemen. The leader, a Yemeni, wrote to bin Laden with a surprising proposal: He suggested that he step down as chief of the affiliate in favor of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American ideologue. Awlaki’s influence has been revealed in a string of recent plots against the U.S., including the attempted Christmas bombing on a Detroit-bound flight in 2009.

The leader explained that naming Awlaki as his replacement would be a propaganda coup. It would take advantage of the cleric’s popularity among Westerners, especially Americans, and have a strong impact on recruitment, according to the counterterror official.

The leader in Pakistan rejected the proposal, however, according to the official. “Bin laden’s message was essentially, I know you. I trust you. Let’s keep things the way they are.” [my emphasis]

Note, though, that this intelligence didn’t come from the raid, though it appears to have been leaked by the same “US official” (who is not a counterterrorism official) leaking the findings of the raid.

The report is interesting for a number of reasons.

First, because, aside from the raid, where were we getting intelligence on OBL’s reported letter-based exchanges? Where were we getting both sides of written exchanges between Yemen and OBL “months before the raid”?

Then there’s this bit, from a “senior intelligence official” who rolled out the OBL home movies last week. After being asked, for a second time, whether the cache at OBL’s compound revealed anything about al-Awlaki, he made what I assume to be a very odd misstatement–or a remarkable truth.

Q: And is Awlaki a possible successor as part of that?

SR. INTEL OFFICIAL: I think we addressed Awlaki before, but–

(Cross talk.)

Q: — to bin Laden? Is that shown in the records?

SR. INTEL OFFICIAL: I can’t say specifically at this point whether that’s in the records, per se, or in the documents, but, you know, it would be highly unsurprising if bin Laden didn’t know about Anwar al-Awlaki.

Let’s unpack the grammar of this, the official transcript: It would be highly unsurprising (meaning, it would not be surprising, meaning it would be likely) if bin Laden didn’t (that’s “did not”) know about Anwar al-Awlaki. It would be likely that bin Laden did not know about al-Awlaki.

That can’t be right. That can’t be what the SIO meant to say. Obviously, OBL at least knew about al-Awlaki. I mean, we saw him watching the tellie, right? Al-Awlaki’s all over the tellie.

But of course, the ProPublica exchange, from intelligence collected months before the raid and offered in support of the assertion that “Bin Laden also managed to retain authority over al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen but without “the same degree of detailed involvement” shows that OBL doesn’t care all that much–or doesn’t trust–Anwar al-Awlaki. Indeed, elsewhere the ProPublica report describes OBL’s criticism of Inspire magazine, produced by an American in Yemen. That is, OBL made what ProPublica rightly suggests are rather incredible complaints about a magazine that filled the same niche al-Awlaki does: popularized outreach to English speakers.

It seems like OBL doesn’t care that much for the Americans waging jihad, in English, in Yemen.

All of which brings us to the reason so many journalists are asking these questions about al-Awlaki.

You know, the drone strike targeting an American citizen? The drone strike launched just days after OBL’s death, which led a lot of people to believe it was a direct response to something we found in OBL’s compound? The drone strike on a guy that this US official at least suggests OBL doesn’t trust all that much?

That drone strike?

But then there’s the final implication of all this. People within al Qaeda are feeding into the notoriety we’re according al-Awlaki for trying to bomb him so much. The insiders appear to not trust him. But they recognize that he’s a great figure for propaganda.

At least partly because we made him one.

There’s something very hinky with the intelligence on al-Awlaki we found–or didn’t find–in OBL’s compound. Charitably, this “US official” who spoke to ProPublica might just be feinting, discussing outdated information to lead al-Awlaki to let his guard down (though if that’s true, shouldn’t we assume everything else he said is propaganda, too?). More likely, he’s answering the umpteenth question about any ties between intelligence we found at OBL’s compound and our attempt to assassinate al-Awlaki last week, with no due process.

And the best explanation he can offer is months old intelligence, showing that OBL doesn’t trust al-Awlaki.

Killing Democracy with Bad Intelligence

Some of us have been having fun on Twitter discussing the reported power struggle in al Qaeda to replace Osama bin Laden in terms we’d use to discuss an American election. Which made this report–which Frontline linked as part of their Kill/Capture program that aired last night–all the more chilling. The author, Kate Clark, consulted “survivors, witnesses, police, senior Afghan officials – and, crucially, senior officers in the Special Forces unit which carried out” a September 2, 2010 bombing strike. She concluded that rather than killing a senior Taliban official, as JSOC still maintains, the airstrike killed a group of men campaigning for parliament.

Clark examines in depth the intelligence chain that led JSOC to kill a local campaign party, believing they were instead targeting the Taliban commander. That chain started with intelligence from a detainee.

The intelligence operation which ultimately led to the 2 September 2010 attack, started, according to the Special Forces unit, with information came from a detainee in US custody. This allowed them ultimately to identify a relative of the detainee as the shadow deputy governor of Takhar, one Muhammad Amin, and to map a Taleban‐ and IMU‐related cluster through the monitoring of cell phones.

For some reason, the intelligence analysts tracking this cluster concluded that Amin had started using the SIM card of the guy they eventually targeted, Zabet Amanullah.

The intelligence analysts came to believe that the SIM card of one of the numbers that Muhammad Amin had been calling in Kabul was passed on to him. They believed that he started to use this phone and to ‘self‐identify’ as Zabet Amanullah.

And in spite of the fact that Amanullah and Amin spoke by phone two days before the attack, JSOC maintained they were the same person. Amin explained in an interview with another researcher,

About two days before his death Zabet Amanullah spoke to me on the phone and told me that he was determined to block Qazi Kabir from being elected to parliament. That is why he was supporting Abdul Wahid Khorasani, that and the fact that they are related… After the incident, I saw my name in the media and realised the attack was intended for me… I did not discuss this with anyone…

At no time did the analysts investigate the biography of Zabet Amanullah, which would have alerted them that he was a prominent local figure (and, as Clark lays out in a poignant biography she includes, a former human rights worker who had survived three rounds of imprisonment and torture). Instead, JSOC insisted that the technical data targeting a phone was enough to justify the attack.

The Special Forces unit denied that the identities of two different men, Muhammad Amin and Zabet Amanullah, could have been conflated; they insisted the technical evidence that they were one person is irrefutable.

[snip]

When pressed about the existence – and death – of an actual Zabet Amanullah, they argued that they were not tracking a name, but targeting the telephones.

The report discusses the legal implications of this mistaken killing in depth–the failure to cross-check intelligence and the failure to protect others in the convoy who gave no sign of belligerence.

But the metaphor of it all–of the US using faulty intelligence to bomb an Afghan trying to practice democracy–captures what we’re doing in Afghanistan so much more aptly.

After Killing the Guy Who Started this War, We Simply Redefine It

Used to be, when you vanquished your enemy, you declared victory and went home.

Not this time. Just a week after the death of Osama bin Laden–who declared war on the US in 1996–Buck McKeon has renewed his effort to rewrite the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force so as to include our secret wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and wherever else an unchecked President wants it to be. As part of the bargain, McKeon’s GWOT 2.0 would give the President the authority to detain our enemies in this newly-redefined war for the length of the hostilities (otherwise known as “forever”).

Benjamin Wittes has a good analysis of McKeon’s GWOT 2.0 here.

Now, I realize it’s not as simple as declaring victory and going home. In fact, I bet that a new AUMF, which would divorce the President’s super-duper terrorist fighting powers from the territory of Afghanistan, might make him more likely to declare victory in Afghanistan and go home. Moreover, by redefining the GWOT such that we can attach those super-duper powers to, say, Anwar al-Awlaki rather than 9/11, then the President won’t face legal pressure to free indefinite detainees because the war has ended. While it won’t happen yet, if the US were to nab a few more key al Qaeda leaders using the intelligence seized from OBL’s compound, you could make a legitimate argument that it’s time to let the indefinite detainees free.

I’m just betting, but I suspect that’s the direction the Administration’s thinking will head from where it’s currently at, which–according to Josh Gerstein–is undecided.

A White Houses spokesman declined to comment to POLITICO about the administration’s official position on whether the AUMF needs to be reaffirmed or replaced.

However, a senior administration official said Obama aides are split over whether to endorse the idea of updating the use-of-force resolution.

“After ten years, you may need something other than the AUMF,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “As an intellectual policy matter you can make a very good argument for doing that [but] there are divisions.”

It would offer them flexibility in Afghanistan just in time for the electorate to voice its displeasure with our endless wars abroad, while guarding super-duper powers the President has come to apparently cherish.

I realize, too, that we can’t say “we killed OBL, so let’s stop fighting terrorists.” Read more

Coming Soon to a Base Near You! Drone Hangars!

The House Armed Services Committee Mark-Up for next year’s Defense Authorization is out. And it includes funds to build drone hangars at four bases in the Continental US. The bases are–with images showing how far a Predator drone might be able to fly with its 2,300 mile range–are below:

Fort Riley, KS ($60 million)

Fort Campbell, KY ($67 million)

Fort Bragg, NC ($54 million)

Fort Hood, TX ($47 million)

Congratulations California! You seem to be slightly out of range of these new drone hangars.

Mind you, these aren’t the domestic drones you’re looking for. The domestic drones–piloted by the Air National Guard at Fort Drum, NY to monitor black bears in the Adirondacks–just cover the East coast. These drones probably won’t have a domestic purpose.

Still, with members of Congress itching to approve drone overflight in the name of job-creation, how long will it be before we see drones overhead?

The Drone “Debate” and Friendly Fire

Last week, Spencer reported on an Air Force contract for software to move towards self-piloted drones.

The Air Force recently gave Stottler Henke Associates $100,000 to deliver a software package that can keep drones from colliding into human-piloted planes as they take off and land. Stottler’s proposal, called the Intelligent Pilot Intent Analysis System, models pilots’ behavior in manifested and predicted scenarios: how they take off, how they land, how they maneuver in between. It also incorporates information from Air Traffic Control and guidance for specific runways. All that will tell the drone how to react when a plane veers close or the trajectory of the two planes might portend a crash.

Put simply, it’s analogous to getting a drone to think like a pilot, getting into his head. And it’s a big step for drone autonomy. “We’re encoding that knowledge that human pilots have, what they’re going to do,” Stottler says.

Then on Friday, Walter Pincus had an article describing discussions in the UK and here about whether using drones desensitizes their users to the death they cause.

The British study noted that drones are becoming increasingly automated. With minor technical advances, it said, a drone could soon be able to “fire a weapon based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.” It cautioned that the Defense Ministry “currently has no intention to develop” such systems.

Nonetheless, the aircraft, piloted by people far from the battlefield, represents an approaching technological tipping point “that may well deliver a genuine revolution in military affairs,” according to the Joint Doctrine Note, which was conducted under the direction of the British Chiefs of Staff. Titled “The United Kingdom Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” it was first disclosed last week by the Guardian newspaper.

[snip]

Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, former Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, acknowledged that the use of drones comes with potential problems with public perceptions. “Our adversaries have interjected this as a question in [people’s] minds, as an attempt to limit the use of what is very, very effective,” he said.

Though, as FAIR notes, while the lede of Pincus’ article referred to “debates,” what he described in his article was really a chorus of drone supporters.

Readers of the Washington Post can see this headline in today’s edition (4/25/11) about the U.S. drone airstrikes:

Debates Underway on Combat Drones

But there is no actual debate in the article. Reporter Walter Pincus cites a British military study that calls the use of missile-firing drones “a genuine revolution in military affairs,” adding that the “use of unmanned aircraft prevents the potential loss of aircrew lives and is thus in itself morally justified.”

Pincus goes on to explain:

At a Washington conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) last week, the issue of drones was also widely discussed.

That “wide discussion” would seem to have involved drone proponents from the CIA and the military.

Aside from any real debate, though, this discussion about all the lives that drones save seem to be missing one more detail: the recent news that two Americans were killed in a friendly fire drone strike.

Which is why I find it particularly tragic that our abstract certainty about who is and who is not a terrorist has led to this: the friendly fire death of two Americans last week–including Navy medic Benjamin Rast from Niles, MI–in a Predator drone strike in Afghanistan.

The investigation is looking into the deaths of a Marine and a Navy medic killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator after they apparently were mistaken for insurgents in southern Afghanistan last week, two senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

[snip]

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith of Arlington, Tex., and Seaman Benjamin D. Rast of Niles, Mich., were hit while moving toward other Marines who were under fire in Helmand province.

Perhaps appropriately, the LAT just laid out in chilling detail the ways in which our drone targeting is prone to human error (the LAT article appeared after Smith and Rast were killed but before DOD admitted they were killed by a drone strike). In an effort to bypass unreliable Afghan partners, we have moved increasingly to targeting people who act or look like insurgents. But from 15,000 feet above the ground, with analysis conducted 7,000 miles away, it seems Americans own troops can look like insurgents, too.

It is clear that we’ve reached a point in our use of drones where the experts who use them are considering what relation they have on our own humanity. But if we have that discussion without, at the same time, talking about not just the “lives saved” but those tragically lost, haven’t we also lost our humanity?

US-Based Drones for the Sake of Drones

(graphic: darkblack for Firedoglake)

Apparently, a bunch of people claiming to be interested in jobs inserted an amendment into the FAA bill requiring the FAA to allow for drones in US airspace. (h/t NC)

I became aware of the pro-drone legislation from a February 10, 2011, Syracuse Post Standard report that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) was supporting an amendment to the pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (S. 223) that would create test zones for the introduction of drones into general airspace.

Senator Schumer was interested in the pro-drone amendment because MQ-9 Reaper drones, killer drones that are flying over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, are stationed at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse. However, FAA safety restrictions have limited drone flights out of Hancock.

“If Schumer’s legislative move succeeds this week,” said the Post Standard, “it would help ensure the future of 1,215 jobs at the (air) base in Mattydale (New York) and potentially lead to millions of dollars in radar research contracts for local defense companies.”

Aside from jobs, what’s remarkable about the push for drones is how amorphous the purpose of the drones are. Here’s Candice Miller, one of the sponsors of the amendment, describing the need:

My amendment is designed to help expedite and to improve the process by which FAA works with government agencies to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs as they’re commonly called, into the National Airspace System. Currently, Mr. Chairman, law enforcement agencies across the country, from Customs and Border Protection to local police departments, et cetera, are ready to embrace the new technology and to start utilizing UAVs in the pursuit of enforcing the law and protecting our border as well.

However, the FAA has been very hesitant to give authorization to these UAVs due to limited air space and restrictions that they have. I certainly can appreciate those concerns; but when we’re talking about Customs and Border Protection or the FBI, what have you, we are talking about missions of national security. And certainly there’s nothing more important than that. It was a very, very lengthy exercise to get the FAA to authorize the use of UAVs on the southern border. While they’re finally being utilized down there, we are certainly a long way from fully utilizing these technologies. [my emphasis]

That is, we’re talking about CPB (which has used the drones for some years), but also the FBI, local police departments, and “et cetera” using the drones.

Did I miss the open, public debate about whether we want the FBI–much less local police departments or “et cetera” using drones to spy on Americans’ activities?

Then again, I guess this is why the government needs to trump up claims about self-radicalized Americans: to provide some justification, no matter how thing, for our latest jobs program.

A New Form of MI “Terrorist”: The Friendly Fire One

There was a weird period last spring, as all the fearmongering in the country focused on the underwear bomber sitting in a jail just nineteen miles from me, after the autopsy of an African American imam in Detroit raised new questions about FBI’s pursuit of him as a terrorist, and after some of the only white people indicted under the WMD charges usually reserved for Muslims were arrested in my county, when it felt like Michigan was the melting pot of terrorism. Our local news was full of coverage of the al Qaeda terrorist, the purported black Muslim terrorist, and the alleged Christian militia terrorists all at one time.

Not that it gave me any special wisdom about terrorism, but from my vantage point in MI, self-confident claims about what made and did not make a terrorist always seemed too confident to me.

Which is why I find it particularly tragic that our abstract certainty about who is and who is not a terrorist has led to this: the friendly fire death of two Americans last week–including Navy medic Benjamin Rast from Niles, MI–in a Predator drone strike in Afghanistan.

The investigation is looking into the deaths of a Marine and a Navy medic killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator after they apparently were mistaken for insurgents in southern Afghanistan last week, two senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

[snip]

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith of Arlington, Tex., and Seaman Benjamin D. Rast of Niles, Mich., were hit while moving toward other Marines who were under fire in Helmand province.

Perhaps appropriately, the LAT just laid out in chilling detail the ways in which our drone targeting is prone to human error (the LAT article appeared after Smith and Rast were killed but before DOD admitted they were killed by a drone strike). In an effort to bypass unreliable Afghan partners, we have moved increasingly to targeting people who act or look like insurgents. But from 15,000 feet above the ground, with analysis conducted 7,000 miles away, it seems Americans own troops can look like insurgents, too.

My condolences to the families and friends of these men. May we learn a lesson from this about the false certainty that drives our war against terrorism.

Ongoing Fallout from Raymond Davis Affairs Reveals Extent of Our Activities in Pakistan

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:

  1. Spying on Pakistan’s nuclear program
  2. Infiltration of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that carried out the Mumbai bombing as well as (the WSJ adds) the Haqqani network
  3. Deploying Special Forces personnel in the name of training Frontier Corps but using them to spy instead
  4. Conducting the drone program unilaterally, without sharing targeting information with Pakistan

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.

The Fog of Obamawar In Hi-Def 1080p

David S. Cloud has what can only be described as an amazing piece in today’s Los Angeles Times on the sobering reality and cold hearted bloodlust of remote drone warfare. Cloud’s story tells, in gripping, fully fleshed from all angles, detail the story of an United States killer drone operation gone awry.

The Americans were using some of the most sophisticated tools in the history of war, technological marvels of surveillance and intelligence gathering that allowed them to see into once-inaccessible corners of the battlefield. But the high-tech wizardry would fail in its most elemental purpose: to tell the difference between friend and foe.

This is the story of that episode. It is based on hundreds of pages of previously unreleased military documents, including transcripts of cockpit and radio conversations obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the results of two Pentagon investigations and interviews with the officers involved as well as Afghans who were on the ground that day.

Before you go any further, go read Cloud’s full article. Seriously, do it now, because the details of the story – of just this one singular drone strike – are too many and Cloud lays them out to well for me to pick, choose and substitute.

Suffice it to say, by the most conservative casualty report, by the US military naturally, there were at least 16 dead and 12 critically wounded. For which General Stanley McChrystal gave a verbal apology and the oh so benevolent United States government paid blood money stipends of $2,900 for the dismembered and disfigured survivors and $4,800 for the dead. At $76,800, the combined lives of 16 innocent dead citizens, blown to bits in their own country, is about the cost of one of the Hellfire missiles fired by a Predator drone. The cold and celebratory technician soldiers at the drone pilot center in Nevada, and video review center in Florida, played their war games on video monitors that are worth more than the United States assigns as the value of a developed human life in Afghanistan.

So much of the angst (though certainly not all) from the legal liberal left, whether here at Emptywheel, from our friend Glenn Greenwald, or others, centers on promises and inferences that Barack Obama Read more

When Militaries Conspire to Ignore the Will of the People

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.

[snip]

“[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.

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