When CIA Met ISI
America stands at a Pakistani crossroads.
May 20, 2011 - 10:27 pm
The Pakistanis did not help that relationship when, on Friday, May 6, the Pakistani media reported that another CIA station chief was outed. Although the wrong name was given, those interviewed deemed the move to have been carried out in embarrassed retaliation for the Osama bin Laden incident. After all, the Pakistanis were in the dark about the operation. They didn’t know how the Seals went in without being detected. They were caught unawares by what Defense Secretary Gates referred to on 60 Minutes as “the perfect fusion of intelligence collection, intelligence analysis, and a military operation.”
A former senior intelligence official angrily noted that the leak was “petty and reckless on the ISI’s part. Someone very senior in the U.S. government needs to tell them to knock this crap off or they will get someone killed.” Lisa Curtis believes that because this “same tactic was used last December, it could be their way of saying we have our bargaining chips as well — we also have leverage.” Grenier believes that the outing is “a symptom of a much larger issue: their attitude toward other extremist groups, particularly those that are a direct threat to the U.S. It is centered,” he says, “on the divergence of policies,” since the Pakistanis want to hedge their bets when America pulls out of Afghanistan.
Given the Pakistanis’ attitude, the Obama administration needs to consider unilateral action like that taken to kill Osama bin Laden. According to the experts, Pakistan cannot be considered an ally any longer. Today, it is an ever less willing and less capable partner. Based on the circumstances, serious consideration must be given to more covert action, including the direct CIA interrogation of captured terrorists.
A former senior CIA official suggested that America has no choice and needs to work with the senior leadership of the ISI — in a continuance of the current love-hate relationship. He concluded that America has to be careful that the bad guys in the ISI do not become dominant. Yet, he said, “the Pakistanis must be reminded that it is in their best interest to keep Uncle Sam on their side.” Everyone feels that what is needed is to get the Pakistan-U.S. relationship off the front pages and back behind closed doors. Like it or not, it’s in America’s best interest to work with the ISI. Trusting them, unfortunately, is a separate issue.