Pakistan ISI Planned, Supported Indian Embassy Bombing
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped plan and provided logistical support for last month’s bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan according to U.S. intelligence reports leaked to the press by various “officials.”
Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt report for the NYT that,
The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.
The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Concerns about the role played by Pakistani intelligence not only has strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, a longtime ally, but also has fanned tensions between Pakistan and its archrival, India. Within days of the bombings, Indian officials accused the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, of helping to orchestrate the attack in Kabul, which killed 54, including an Indian defense attaché.
The government officials were guarded in describing the new evidence and would not say specifically what kind of assistance the ISI officers provided to the militants. They said that the ISI officers had not been renegades, indicating that their actions might have been authorized by superiors.
“It confirmed some suspicions that I think were widely held,” one State Department official with knowledge of Afghanistan issues said of the intercepted communications. “It was sort of this ‘aha’ moment. There was a sense that there was finally direct proof.”
Some American officials have begun to suggest that Pakistan is no longer a fully reliable American partner and to advocate some unilateral American action against militants based in the tribal areas.
Joby Warrick‘s report fronting today’s WaPo notes that it’s a bit more complicated than that:
One official involved with U.S. counterterrorism efforts stressed that the ISI has generally worked closely with U.S. intelligence in battling al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the tribal region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he acknowledged that the Pakistani intelligence service is “not monolithic.”
The intelligence community is divided about the extent of Taliban sympathies within the Pakistani service, a second senior official said. “You will find folks who will say there is significant penetration of the ISI by terrorist elements and that’s a serious concern,” the official said. “But others are saying that certainly, there’s penetration, but we don’t think it’s top to bottom.”
The problem is manifold. While the Pakistani government supports our fight against al Qaeda, “Pakistan” is not a proper state in the sense of being completely under the sovereignty of a central government. The politics and interests of the Pashtun tribal lands, nominally separated on the map into areas called “Pakistan” and “Afghanistan,” only loosely overlap with that of the governments of those states.
While Juan Cole is characteristically hyperbolic in bashing the Bush administration and John McCain for supporting the odious Musharraf government, as if there were excellent alternatives available, he’s right to ask this: “How much of the $10 billion in aid Bush and Cheney gave to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf after September 11 ended up being used to kill US, NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan?” The answer is almost certainly greater than “None,” especially when one remembers money is fungible.
It should be noted, as Marc Tran does for the Guardian, that Pakistan strenuously denies these reports, calling them “total rubbish.” Certainly, our intelligence agencies get big things wrong seemingly all the time. That this charge confirms what we and they have long suspected makes the report much more believable. Then again, it also means that the incentive to share nuance and countervailing information is diminished.
Photo: Anjum Naveed/Associated Press via NYT