Pakistan ISI Planned, Supported Indian Embassy Bombing

Anjum Naveed/Associated Press President Pervez Musharraf, left, with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who succeeded Mr. Musharraf as chief of the army last year. General Kayani previously led the ISI, Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency.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

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brian J. says:

    President Obama will teach Pakistan a thing or two when he orders the invasion.

  2. Michael says:

    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.

    No longer? When exactly was Pakistan reliable?

    Also, I heard on NPR this morning that the ISI was very recently (within the past few days) moved from being under the Defense Ministry, to the Interior Ministry. The implication was that this move was in response to Pakistan being confronted with this information. However, looking for a link to post this morning, it seems that the ISI may have been under the Prime Minister all along….Again, when was Pakistan reliable?

  3. sam says:

    For some more background on this sorry situation, see this New York Times story from July 20, When Spies Don’t Play Well With Their Allies.

  4. legion says:

    But he acknowledged that the Pakistani intelligence service is “not monolithic.”

    Not monolithic? Isn’t that some sort of half-assed spinning of “completely rogue”? I mean seriously – Our own intel officials are as much as admitting that elements of Pakistani gov’t intel can, on their own initiative, engage in open acts of warfare with a neighboring nuclear-armed regional power.

    How is Pakistan any less dangerous a rabid animal than the Taliban regime of Afghanistan was? I mean, they may not be trying to attack us, but at least the Taliban never had nukes, right? Should we not be pissing our collective pants at this point?

  5. Michael says:

    Not monolithic? Isn’t that some sort of half-assed spinning of “completely rogue”?

    No, it means that ISI is made up of many sub-agencies, responsible for different things, much like how are CIA and FBI are responsible for different things.

    I mean, they may not be trying to attack us, but at least the Taliban never had nukes, right?

    I don’t think the ISI has access to nuclear weapons either.

    Should we not be pissing our collective pants at this point?

    No.

  6. They have been many rogue elements in our CIA, State Department, etc., or at least a lot of movies about them.

  7. steve says:

    Pakistan does not have a cohesive government, but the impact of the ISI will pertain mostly to problems in the FATA, not with their nukes. I would be more concerned about the nukes from the old USSR.

    Steve

  8. legion says:

    No, it means that ISI is made up of many sub-agencies, responsible for different things, much like how are CIA and FBI are responsible for different things.

    Ummm… no. Not comparable at all. Even when our intel structure was out doing completely insane things, like arranging the Bay of Pigs f*ckup, or funding & arming terrorists in Central America, or trading arms for hostages in the Middle East, never forget that they were doing what they had been told to do by their proper chain of command, up to & including the President.

    I suppose the gov’t of Pakistan (such as it is) could really be pushing brinkmanship over the edge by setting up the bombing of the embassy of a neighboring nuclear power, or it could be completely uncontrolled elements deciding on their own that it was a “good idea”… Either way, if someone doesn’t pull on their Grownup Pants over there, there will be a regional nuke exchange in the next few years.

  9. Michael says:

    Ummm… no. Not comparable at all. Even when our intel structure was out doing completely insane things, like arranging the Bay of Pigs f*ckup, or funding & arming terrorists in Central America, or trading arms for hostages in the Middle East, never forget that they were doing what they had been told to do by their proper chain of command, up to & including the President.

    I seem to remember not too long ago the FBI screwed up a CIA project, because the goals of the FBI were different than the goals of the CIA. Granted, in that case, neither side knew they were working counter to the other. In both cases, however, the President was not personally aware of what was going on.

    Within the ISI, there are groups dedicated to fighting India, and groups that are dedicated to fighting Islamists. If the India group can use Islamists to accomplish their goals, they probably don’t have a problem with that.