Most wanted terrorist captured from hotel in Pakistan



Updated 2013-09-04 13:49:40


ISLAMABAD: In a daring raid, Saudi Special Forces arrested one of the most wanted extremist leaders, Abu Jarara Al-Yemeni, from a hotel located in one of Pakistan’s most popular vacation spots in Murree.

The news spread like wildfire and people were seen cursing the Pakistani government for allowing the Americans to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty, again.

However, when it became clear that the raid was not conducted by the Americans but by the Saudis, the frowns turned into smiles and many were heard saying, ‘Jazzakallah!’

Only minutes after the raid, Pakistan’s Prime Minister appeared on state-owned television and congratulated the nation and thanked the Saudi regime for helping Pakistan in its war against terror.

Interestingly, religious parties like Jamaat-i-Islami, (JI) Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and some banned sectarian organisations, that had originally called a joint press conference to condemn the raid, changed their stance half-way through the conference when told that the raid was by Saudi forces and not the Americans.

JI chief was first heard lambasting Pakistan’s civilian government for letting the country’s sovereignty be violated by the Americans, but after a reporter confirmed that the raid was executed by Saudi forces, the JI chief turned towards the JUI chief and embraced him.

Mahshallah!’ he exclaimed. “Today is a glorious day for our Islamic republic!”

JI and JUI chiefs had earlier questioned the real identity of the man arrested from the hotel, saying that even if it was Jarara, we should be ashamed because he was a freedom fighter, conducting a liberation war against the Americans.

However, after it became clear that the arrest was made by Saudi forces, both the men then claimed that Jarara was no friend of Pakistan and that he was not even a Muslim.

In a joint statement, JI, JUI and the sectarian organisations congratulated the nation and said that they had been saying all along that the extremists were Pakistan’s greatest enemies and should be exterminated.

The statement also said that the JI and JUI (along with PTI) will continue to hold sit-ins against American drones, which were parachuting evil men like Jarara into Pakistan and violating the sovereignty of the country. For this, the statement suggested, that Ahmad Shah Abdali should be invited to invade Pakistan and defeat the Americans.

When told that Abdali died almost two hundred years ago, the religious leaders termed this to be nothing more than western propaganda.

PTI members at the conference added that Pakistan’s most prominent revolutionary and youngest nuclear physicists, Zohair Toru, was building anti-drone missiles.

Toru, who was also present at the conference, confirmed this while licking a lemon-flavored Popsicle. He said it was a very hot day and popsicles helped him concentrate.


Zohair Toru at the press conference.

However, soon things took another twist when sources suggested that the Saudis captured Jarara and handed him over to the Americans.

The Americans – who had accused Jarara for committing crimes against humanity – actually plan to use him to lead a revolt against the Syrian government that the Americans accuse of committing crimes against humanity.

After this, the chiefs of JUI, JI and the sectarian parties again changed their stance. In another joint statement, they said Jarara indeed was a great Muslim warrior. They then embraced each other and distributed Saudi dates among the gathered media personnel and asked them to pray for Jarar’s success against the evil Syrian government.

But when asked what they thought about Jarar working with the Americans and vice versa, they said they cannot answer this question because it was time for the afternoon prayers.

When asked whether they will answer the question after the prayers they said by then it will be time for the evening prayers.

When asked if they would be willing to give an answer after the evening prayers, they said by then all of them would be on their way to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.


Members of religious parties after being told the raid was conducted by the Americans.


Religious party leaders after being told Jarar will be used by Saudi Arabia and US in war against Syria.

Religious party leaders after being told Jarar will be used by Saudi Arabia and US in the war against Syria.

The raid

A military spokesman also held a press conference to give the media a briefing on the details of the raid.

He said the raid was executed by Saudi Special Forces who came on four helicopters from Saudi military bases in Raiwind.

The helicopters then landed on the Margala Hills in Islamabad. On the lush hills, Saudi soldiers disembarked from the copters, got on camels and rode all the way to Murree in broad daylight.

They were twice stopped at checkpoints by the Pakistani police but were allowed to cross when some Saudi soldiers promised the cops jobs in Saudi Arabia and year’s supply of Zamzam water.

An eyewitness claims the cops smiled and waved to the departing camels, cheering ‘marhaba, marhaba.’


A passerby captured this photo of the Saudi Special Forces on their way to Murree.

The camel army reached the in Murree at 11:00 am and right away rode their way into the sprawling premises.

The camels were also carrying rocket launchers, sub-machine guns, pistols, grenades and popcorn, all concealed in large ‘Dubai Duty Free’ shopping bags.


One of the items left behind by the Saudi raiding party.

The military spokesman added that although the Pakistan Army had no clue about the raid, there were a dozen or so Pakistani security personnel present at the hotel.

When asked whether these men questioned the camel riders, the spokesman said that they did see them enter the hotel but were at the time busy interrogating a 77-year-old Caucasian male whom they had arrested for smoking in a non-smoking area.

“After the Abbottabad incident, we are keeping a firm eye on Europeans and Americans,” the spokesman said.

Even though the white man turned out to be an old Polish tourist, the spokesman praised the security men’s vigilance. “Our country’s sovereignty is sacred,” he added. “And, of course, smoking is bad for health.”

According to the Pakistan’s security agencies, the Saudis then rode their camels into one of the hotel’s kitchens and fired teargas shells.

This way they smoked out the chefs, cooks and other kitchen staff out into the open. From these, a Saudi commander got hold of a fat, hairy chef with an untidy beard.

The Saudi commander looked at the chef and compared his face with a photograph he was carrying. He asked: ‘Al-Jarara?’ To which the chef was reported to have said: “No, al-chicken jalfrezi. Also make very tasty mutton kebabs.”

The commander then asked, ‘Al-Yemeni?’, to which the chef said, ‘Yes make Yamani tikka too. You want?’


A photo of one of the raiders who entered the hotel disguised as a friendly camel.

A reporter asked the military spokesman whether the Pakistani security men present at the hotel witnessed the operation. The spokesman answered in the affirmative but said they didn’t take any action after confirming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was not being violated.

The reporter then asked how the security men determined that Pakistan’s sovereignty was not being violated. Answering this, the spokesman said that since the camel riders were speaking Arabic there was thus no reason for the security men to charge them for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.

This statement made the media personnel at the press conference very happy and they began applauding and raising emotional slogans praising Pakistan, Ziaul Haq and palm trees.

Soon after the announcement that Al-Jarara was arrested by Saudi forces, the country’s private TV channels became animated. One famous TV talk-show host actually decided to host his show in a Bedouin tent. And instead of a chair, he sat on a camel.


Set of a TV talk show held on a local channel to discuss the Saudi raid.

Though most of his guests — that included prominent ex-generals, clergymen and strategic analysts — praised the operation and heaped scorn and then praise at Al-Jarara, there was one guest, a small-time journalist who disagreed with the panelists.

He asked how a wanted man like Jarara was able to live in Pakistan undetected and that too while working as a chef in a hotel. He also said that Jarara had also been appearing on various cooking shows as a chef on TV food channels.


An alleged shot of Al-Jarara on a Pakistani food channel. Apparently, in this particular episode, he taught viewers how to cook biryani.

To this, the host snubbed the journalist telling him that he was asking irrelevant questions.

‘But before this raid, everyone was accusing the USA!’ the journalist protested.

This made the host angry and he slapped the journalist. He threatened the journalist by saying that he would lodge a case against him in accordance with the Islamic hudood ordinance.

The journalist responded by saying that the Saudis had violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. Hearing this, the host slapped the journalist again, saying he will get him booked for blasphemy.

At the end of the show, the host and the panelists set fire to a Guatemalan flag and sang the Pakistani national anthem in Arabic. Then, after handing over the treacherous journalist to the authorities, they proceeded to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.

However, they were soon deported by the Saudi regime for violating Saudi sovereignty.


American and Israeli officials welcoming the induction of Al-Jarara into the fold of the Syrian rebels.


POST 2014

by Ayaz Amir

Islamabad diary

The Soviet pullout from Afghanistan in 1989 was a triumph for our military establishment. The ISI and the Zia regime, while not solely responsible for that outcome, had helped bring it about. But the American pullout from Afghanistan, now underway and to be completed in about a year’s time, far from being any kind of triumph looks set to be a disaster…one for which we are wholly unprepared.

Afghanistan in 1989 was a simpler proposition, the highs and lows of it etched in black and white. Afghanistan in 2013 is a place infinitely more complicated and dangerous…not just for itself but for us as well.

This is because of one vital difference. Afghanistan then was a country contained within its borders. Afghanistan now, to our misfortune, is stretched across the Durand Line. Ask yourself two simple questions: (1) Are the Taliban based in Fata more loyal to Mullah Omar or to the state of Pakistan? (2) Is North Waziristan, in real terms, more a part of Pakistan or Afghanistan?
When the American pullout is complete these facts will become starker. Does anyone in his right mind think that in a year from now Amir Hakeemullah Mehsud – amir of the semi-independent Islamic Emirate of North Waziristan – will come down from the mountains and lay down his arms before the army command in Rawalpindi?

The Afghan ‘mujahideen’ in 1989 exulted over the circumstance that they had defeated one superpower. Now they can lay claim to a far bigger triumph. Forget about the Afghan Taliban. Does any fool think that when the Americans have drunk fully from their cup of humiliation, the Pakistani Taliban will be in a more penitent mood, ready to settle for modest or moderate terms with the hapless representatives of the Pakistani state? What world of fantasy and make-believe are we living in?

We can fit that old proverb to our circumstances: with friends like the United States who needs enemies? The Americans made life difficult for us by coming to Afghanistan in 2011. They will make life more difficult for us by leaving the job they came to do not just half-done but utterly undone. The Taliban before were just an Afghan phenomenon, a curiosity to be observed from afar. Thanks to our American friends they are now just as much a Pakistani phenomenon.

And we will have to deal with this phenomenon not in the remote future but in a year’s time. When President Obama first said that American troops would be out by 2014, it seemed such a distant date. Now it’s upon us and, far from being prepared, we are seeing to it that we bury our heads deeper into the sand, with sundry paladins saying we must talk peace with the Taliban without being at all clear what this would entail.

Forget for a moment the modalities of peace talks, whether in the mountains or Doha or wherever. Can the knights proposing talks with the Taliban just spell out the terms of a likely settlement? We need some clarity here, not woolly statements…specific outlines of a settlement that would be good for Pakistan. If capable of this clarity, they should not waste a minute. If not, then perhaps it would be best not to brandish olive branches which can only encourage the Taliban and confuse our own forces risking their lives in the killing fields of Fata.

There has been no greater apologist for the Taliban than Imran Khan. Yet when he wanted to march to North Waziristan the Taliban would not allow him. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is a self-appointed mediator for talks with the Taliban. Yet the Taliban, in so many words, have made it clear they want to have nothing to do with him.

Do we take the Taliban to be a bunch of kids? They have been fighting the Pakistan army and air force for the last so many years. Having held out for so long will they settle for any kind of lollipops when, across the Hindukush mountains, vindication is so close at hand for their brethren under Mullah Omar from whom they derive their inspiration? And from whom besides inspiration they will derive more physical strength once the Americans are out of Afghanistan.

Are we in a position to dictate terms or negotiate from a position of strength? Quite apart from the balance of military forces, is there any internal cohesion on our side? If there are elements in Pakistani society hostile to the Taliban, there is no shortage of elements sympathetic to them. The Taliban suffer from no such confusion. We need no videos from the Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, to tell us that they are united in their aim: the recasting of the Pakistani state along lines prescribed by their own version of Islam.

What Swat was under Mullah Fazlullah, what North Waziristan is under Hakeemullah Mehsud, what the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan will be under Mullah Omar, is what they would like the whole of Pakistan to be. And don’t forget that their support network in the form of friendly seminaries and friendly religious parties is now spread across Pakistan.

The MQM may have its own sins to answer for but it is not crying wolf when it says that spreading areas of Karachi are now Taliban-dominated, with their own jirgas to settle local disputes. Indeed, the Taliban are stepping into the shoes of the Awami National Party. And the MQM while not without its own power will, in times to come, be no match for these veterans of multiple jihads.

So the dynamics of the national situation are changing and we remain blissfully unaware. This is strategic depth in reverse; not Afghanistan our depth but Pakistan with its religious parties and Taliban sympathisers becoming, oh scary thought, an extension of Afghanistan. Does this sound too apocalyptic? But then could anyone have imagined in 2001 that in a few years’ time North Waziristan would become a no-go area where our military boots would fear to tread? Or that the spectre of Vietnam would come to haunt Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is only living up to its reputation of being the graveyard of empires. But who told us to play with fire there? Now it’s just not our fingers that are being burnt but much more.
Come to think of it, through our folly we are reversing 200 years of history. Once upon a time most of the territories now comprising Pakistan were part of the kingdom of Kabul. Then on these territories Maharajah Ranjit Singh established his kingdom and, as a measure of his power, wrested Peshawar from Afghan hands. With the Maharajah’s death his kingdom fell on evil days and it was not long before it was defeated and then annexed by the British.

Of this tangled skein we are the luckless inheritors, successors of course to the British but, at a remove, successors also to the kingdom of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. His was a secular kingdom but let’s not get into that minefield here. More to the point, he kept the Afghans at a distance. We have been less successful than him in our Afghan policy. Our military commanders talk strangely of training Afghan troops. Our own house in disorder, we have the hubris to offer free advice to others.

And as the Americans prepare to leave, forget all the hogwash about their continued interest in our affairs. A skeletal relationship will of course survive but we will be largely on our own, with the rupee in free-fall and the Taliban on the march, in spirit if not otherwise. This about sums up our predicament.

That is why 2013 is so crucial for us, for the governing arrangement that emerges from the coming elections will be the stewards of our discontent when the Americans are out and the Taliban are dreaming of duplicating in Pakistan their victory that side of the Durand Line.
And will we be prepared for all this?


CIA instigating mutiny in the Pakistani army

By M K Bhadrakumar


The unthinkable is happening. The United States

is confronting the Pakistani military leadership of General Parvez Kayani. An

extremely dangerous course to destabilise Pakistan is commencing. Can the

outcome be any different than in Iran in 1979? But then, the Americans are

like Bourbons; they never learn from their mistakes.

The NYT report today is unprecedented.

The report quotes US officials not less than 7 times, which is extraordinary,

including “an American military official involved with Pakistan for many

years”; “a senior American official”, etc. The dispatch is cleverly drafted to

convey the impression that a number of Pakistanis have been spoken to, but

reading between the lines, conceivably, these could also probably have been

indirect attribution by the American sources. A careful reading, in fact,

suggests that the dispatch is almost entirely based on deep briefing by some

top US intelligence official with great access to records relating to the most

highly sensitive US interactions with the Pak army leadership and who was

briefing on the basis of instructions from the highest level of the US

intelligence apparatus.

The report no doubt underscores that the US intelligence penetration of the

Pak defence forces goes very deep. It is no

joke to get a Pakistani officer taking part in an exclusive briefing by Kayani

at the National Defence University to share his notes with the US

interlocutors – unless he is their “mole”. This is like a morality play for we

Indians, too, where the US intelligence penetration is ever broadening and


Quite obviously, the birds are coming to

roost. Pakistani military is paying the price for the big access it provided

to the US to interact with its officer corps within the framework of their

so-called “strategic partnership”. The Americans are now literally holding the

Pakistani army by its jugular veins. This should serve as a big warning for

all militaries of developing countries like India (which is also developing

intensive “mil-to-mil” ties with the US). In our country at least, it is even

terribly unfashionable to speak anymore of CIA activities. The NYT story flags

in no uncertain terms that although Cold War is over, history has not


What are the objectives behind the NYT story?

In sum, any whichever way we look at it, they all are highly diabolic. One, US

is rubbishing army chief Parvez Kayani and ISI head Shuja Pasha who at one

time were its own blue-eyed boys and whose successful careers and

post-retirement extensions in service the Americans carefully choreographed

fostered with a pliant civilian leadership in Islamabad, but now when the

crunch time comes, the folks are not “delivering”. In American culture, as

they say, there is nothing like free lunch.

The Americans are livid that their hefty “investment” has turned out to be

a waste in every sense. And. it was a very painstakingly arranged investment, too.

In short, the Americans finally realise that they might have made a miscalculation

about Kayani when they promoted his career.

Two, US intelligence estimation is that things can only go from bad to worse in

US-Pakistan relations from now onward.

All that is possible to slavage the relationship has been attempted. John Kerry,

Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen – the so-called “friends of Pakistan” in the

Barack Obama administration – have all come to Islamabad and turned on the

charm offensive. But nothing worked. Then came CIA boss Leon Panetta with a

deal that like Marlon Brando said in the movie Godfather, Americans thought

the Pakistanis cannot afford to say ‘No’ to, but to their utter dismay, Kayani

showed him the door.

The Americans realise that Kayani is fighting

for his own survival – and so is Pasha – and that makes him jettison his

“pro-American” mindset and harmonise quickly with the overwhelming opinion

within the army, which is that the Americans pose a danger to Pakistan’s

national security and it is about time that the military leadership draws a

red line. Put simply, Pakistan fears that the Americans are out to grab their

nuclear stockpile. Pakistani people and the military expect Kayani to

disengage from the US-led Afghan war and instead pursue an independent course

in terms of the country’s perceived legitimate interests.

Three, there is a US attempt to exploit the growing indiscipline within the

Pak army and, if possible, to trigger a mutiny, which will bog down the army

leadership in a serious “domestic” crisis

that leaves no time for them for the foreseeable future to play any forceful

role in Afghanistan. In turn, it leaves the Americans a free hand to pursue

their own agenda. Time is of the essence of the matter and the US desperately

wants direct access to the Taliban leadership so as to strike a deal with them

without the ISI or Hamid Karzai coming in between.

The prime US objective is that Taliban should somehow come to a compromise

with them on the single most crucial issue of

permanent US military bases in Afghanistan. The negotiations over the

strategic partnership agreement with Karzai’s government are at a critical

point. The Taliban leadership of Mullah Omar robustly opposes the US proposal

to set up American and NATO bases on their country. The Americans are willing

to take the Taliban off the UN’s sanctions list and allow them to be part of

mainstream Afghan political life, including in the top echelons of leadership,

provided Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura agree to play ball.

The US tried its damnest to get Kayani to bring

the Taliban to the reconciliation path. When these attempts failed, they tried

to establish direct contact with the Taliban leadership. But ISI has been

constantly frustrating the US intelligence activities in this direction and

reminding the US to stick to earlier pledges that Pakistan would have a key

role in the negotiations with the Taliban. The CIA and Pentagon have concluded

that so long as the Pakistani military leadership remains stubborn, they

cannot advance their agenda in Afghanistan.

Now, how do you get Kayani and the ISI to back

off? The US knows the style of functioning of the Pakistani military. The army

chief essentially works within a collegium of the 9 corps commanders. Thus, US

has concluded that it also has to tackle the collegium. The only way is to set

the army’s house on fire so that the generals get distracted by the

fire-dousing and the massive repair work and housecleaning that they will be

called upon to undertake as top priority for months if not years to come. To

rebuild a national institution like the armed forces takes years and


Four, the US won’t mind if Kayani is forced to

step aside from his position and the Pakistani military leadership breaks up

in disarray, as it opens up windows of opportunities to have Kayani and Pasha

replaced by more “dependable” people – Uncle Sam’s own men. There is every

possibility that the US has been grooming its favourites within the Pak army

corps for all contingencies. Pakistan is too important as a “key non-NATO

ally”. The CIA is greatly experienced in masterminding coup d-etat, including

“in-house” coup d’etat.

Almost all the best and the brightest Pak

army officers have passed through the US military academies at one time or

another. Given the sub-continent’s middle class mindset and post-modern

cultural ethos, elites in civil or military life take it for granted that US

backing is a useful asset for furthering career. The officers easily succumb

to US intelligence entrapment. Many such “sleepers” should be existing there

within the Pak army officer corps.

The big question remains: has someone in

Washington thought through the game plan to tame the Pakistani military? The

heart of the matter is that there is virulent “anti-Americanism” within the

Pak armed forces. Very often it overlaps with Islamist sympathies. Old-style

left wing “anti-Americanism” is almost non-existent in the Pakistani armed

forces – as in Ayaz Amir’s time. These tendencies in the military are almost

completely in sync with the overwhelming public opinion in the country as


Over the past 3 decades at least, Pakistani

army officers have come to be recruited almost entirely from the lower middle

class – as in our country – and not from the landed aristocracy as in the

earlier decades up to the 1970s. These social strata are quintessentially

right wing in their ideology, nationalistic, and steeped in religiosity that

often becomes indistinguishable from militant religious faith.

Given the overall economic crisis in Pakistan

and the utterly discredited Pakistani political class (as a whole) and

countless other social inequities and tensions building up in an overall

climate of cascading violence and great uncertainties about the future gnawing

the mind of the average Pakistani today, a lurch toward extreme right wing

Islamist path is quite possible. The ingredients in Pakistan are almost

nearing those prevailing in Iran in the Shah’s era.

The major difference so far has been that

Pakistan has an armed forces “rooted in the soil” as a national institution,

which the public respected to the point of revering it, which on its part,

sincerely or not, also claimed to be the Praetorian Guards of the Pakistani

state. Now, in life, destroying comes very easy. Unless the Americans have

some very bright ideas about how to go about nation-building in Pakistan,

going by their track record in neighbouring Afghanistan, their present course

to discredit the military and incite its disintegration or weakening at the

present crisis point, is fraught with immense dangers.

The instability in the region may suit the US’

geo-strategy for consolidating its (and NATO’s) military presence in the

region but it will be a highly self-centred, almost cynical, perspective to

take on the problem, which has dangerous, almost explosive, potential for

regional security. Also, who it is that is in charge of the Pakistan policy in

Washington today, we do not know. To my mind, Obama administration doesn’t

have a clue since Richard Holbrooke passed away as to how to handle Pakistan.

The disturbing news in recent weeks has

been that all the old “Pakistan hands” in the USG have left the Obama

administration. It seems there has been a steady exodus of officials who knew

and understood how Pakistan works, and the depletion is almost one hundred

percent. That leaves an open field for the CIA to set the


The CIA boss Leon Panetta (who is tipped as

defense secretary) is an experienced and ambitious politico who knows how to

pull the wires in the Washington jungle – and, to boot it, he has an Italian

name. He is unlikely to forgive and forget the humiliation he suffered in

Rawalpindi last Friday. The NYT story suggests that it is not in his blood if

he doesn’t settle scores with the Rawalpindi crowd. If Marlon Brando were

around, he would agree.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian

Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri

Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and


U.S.-Pakistani Relations Beyond Bin Laden


By George Friedman

The past week has been filled with announcements and speculations on how Osama bin Laden was killed and on Washington’s source of intelligence. After any operation of this sort, the world is filled with speculation on sources and methods by people who don’t know, and silence or dissembling by those who do.

Obfuscating on how intelligence was developed and on the specifics of how an operation was carried out is an essential part of covert operations. The precise process must be distorted to confuse opponents regarding how things actually played out; otherwise, the enemy learns lessons and adjusts. Ideally, the enemy learns the wrong lessons, and its adjustments wind up further weakening it.

Operational disinformation is the final, critical phase of covert operations. So as interesting as it is to speculate on just how the United States located bin Laden and on exactly how the attack took place, it is ultimately not a fruitful discussion. Moreover, it does not focus on the truly important question, namely, the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Posturing Versus a Genuine Breach

It is not inconceivable that Pakistan aided the United States in identifying and capturing Osama bin Laden, but it is unlikely. This is because the operation saw the already-tremendous tensions between the two countries worsen rather than improve. The Obama administration let it be known that it saw Pakistan as either incompetent or duplicitous and that it deliberately withheld plans for the operation from the Pakistanis. For their part, the Pakistanis made it clear that further operations of this sort on Pakistani territory could see an irreconcilable breach between the two countries. The attitudes of the governments profoundly affected the views of politicians and the public, attitudes that will be difficult to erase.

Posturing designed to hide Pakistani cooperation would be designed to cover operational details, not to lead to significant breaches between countries. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan ultimately is far more important than the details of how Osama bin Laden was captured, but both sides have created a tense atmosphere that they will find difficult to contain. One would not sacrifice strategic relationships for the sake of operational security. Therefore, we have to assume that the tension is real and revolves around the different goals of Pakistan and the United States.

A break between the United States and Pakistan holds significance for both sides. For Pakistan, it means the loss of an ally that could help Pakistan fend off its much larger neighbor to the east, India. For the United States, it means the loss of an ally in the war in Afghanistan. Whether the rupture ultimately occurs, of course, depends on how deep the tension goes. And that depends on what the tension is over, i.e., whether the tension ultimately merits the strategic rift. It also is a question of which side is sacrificing the most. It is therefore important to understand the geopolitics of U.S.-Pakistani relations beyond the question of who knew what about bin Laden.

From Cold to Jihadist War

U.S. strategy in the Cold War included a religious component, namely, using religion to generate tension within the Communist bloc. This could be seen in the Jewish resistance in the Soviet Union, in Roman Catholic resistance in Poland and, of course, in Muslim resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it took the form of using religious Islamist militias to wage a guerrilla war against Soviet occupation. A three-part alliance involving the Saudis, the Americans and the Pakistanis fought the Soviets. The Pakistanis had the closest relationships with the Afghan resistance due to ethnic and historical bonds, and the Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had built close ties with the Afghans.
As frequently happens, the lines of influence ran both ways. The ISI did not simply control Islamist militants, but instead many within the ISI came under the influence of radical Islamist ideology. This reached the extent that the ISI became a center of radical Islamism, not so much on an institutional level as on a personal level: The case officers, as the phrase goes, went native. As long as the U.S. strategy remained to align with radical Islamism against the Soviets, this did not pose a major problem. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States lost interest in the future of Afghanistan, managing the conclusion of the war fell to the Afghans and to the Pakistanis through the ISI. In the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States played a trivial role. It was the ISI in alliance with the Taliban — a coalition of Afghan and international Islamist fighters who had been supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — that shaped the future of Afghanistan

The U.S.- Islamist relationship was an alliance of convenience for both sides. It was temporary, and when the Soviets collapsed, Islamist ideology focused on new enemies, the United States chief among them. Anti-Soviet sentiment among radical Islamists soon morphed into anti-American sentiment. This was particularly true after the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and Desert Storm. The Islamists perceived the U.S. occupation and violation of Saudi territorial integrity as a religious breach. Therefore, at least some elements of international Islamism focused on the United States; al Qaeda was central among these elements. Al Qaeda needed a base of operations after being expelled from Sudan, and Afghanistan provided the most congenial home. In moving to Afghanistan and allying with the Taliban, al Qaeda inevitably was able to greatly expand its links with Pakistan’s ISI, which was itself deeply involved with the Taliban.

After 9/11, Washington demanded that the Pakistanis aid the United States in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. For Pakistan, this represented a profound crisis. On the one hand, Pakistan badly needed the United States to support it against what it saw as its existential enemy, India. On the other hand, Islamabad found it difficult to rupture or control the intimate relationships, ideological and personal, that had developed between the ISI and the Taliban, and by extension with al Qaeda to some extent. In Pakistani thinking, breaking with the United States could lead to strategic disaster with India. However, accommodating the United States could lead to unrest, potential civil war and even collapse by energizing elements of the ISI and supporters of Taliban and radical Islamism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Solution

The Pakistani solution was to appear to be doing everything possible to support the United States in Afghanistan, with a quiet limit on what that support would entail. That limit on support set by Islamabad was largely defined as avoiding actions that would trigger a major uprising in Pakistan that could threaten the regime. Pakistanis were prepared to accept a degree of unrest in supporting the war but not to push things to the point of endangering the regime.

The Pakistanis thus walked a tightrope between demands they provide intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban activities and permit U.S. operations in Pakistan on one side and the internal consequences of doing so on the other. The Pakistanis’ policy was to accept a degree of unrest to keep the Americans supporting Pakistan against India, but only to a point. So, for example, the government purged the ISI of its overt supporters of radial Islamism, but it did not purge the ISI wholesale nor did it end informal relations between purged intelligence officers and the ISI. Pakistan thus pursued a policy that did everything to appear to be cooperative while not really meeting American demands.

The Americans were, of course, completely aware of the Pakistani limits and did not ultimately object to this arrangement. The United States did not want a coup in Islamabad, nor did it want massive civil unrest. The United States needed Pakistan on whatever terms the Pakistanis could provide help. It needed the supply line through Pakistan from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. And while it might not get complete intelligence from Pakistan, the intelligence it did get was invaluable. Moreover, while the Pakistanis could not close the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, they could limit them and control their operation to some extent. The Americans were as aware as the Pakistanis that the choice was between full and limited cooperation, but could well be between limited and no cooperation, because the government might well not survive full cooperation. The Americans thus took what they could get.

Obviously, this relationship created friction. The Pakistani position was that the United States had helped create this reality in the 1980s and 1990s. The American position was that after 9/11, the price of U.S. support involved the Pakistanis changing their policies. The Pakistanis said there were limits. The Americans agreed, so the fight was about defining the limits.
The Americans felt that the limit was support for al Qaeda. They felt that whatever Pakistan’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban was, support in suppressing al Qaeda, a separate organization, had to be absolute. The Pakistanis agreed in principle but understood that the intelligence on al Qaeda flowed most heavily from those most deeply involved with radical Islamism. In others words, the very people who posed the most substantial danger to Pakistani stability were also the ones with the best intelligence on al Qaeda — and therefore, fulfilling the U.S. demand in principle was desirable. In practice, it proved difficult for Pakistan to carry out.

The Breakpoint and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

This proved the breakpoint between the two sides. The Americans accepted the principle of Pakistani duplicity, but drew a line at al Qaeda. The Pakistanis understood American sensibilities but didn’t want to incur the domestic risks of going too far. This psychological breakpoint cracked open on Osama bin Laden, the Holy Grail of American strategy and the third rail of Pakistani policy.

Under normal circumstances, this level of tension of institutionalized duplicity should have blown the U.S.-Pakistani relationship apart, with the United States simply breaking with Pakistan. It did not, and likely will not for a simple geopolitical reason, one that goes back to the 1990s. In the 1990s, when the United States no longer needed to support an intensive covert campaign in Afghanistan, it depended on Pakistan to manage Afghanistan. Pakistan would have done this anyway because it had no choice: Afghanistan was Pakistan’s backdoor, and given tensions with India, Pakistan could not risk instability in its rear. The United States thus did not have to ask Pakistan to take responsibility for Afghanistan.

The United States is now looking for an exit from Afghanistan. Its goal, the creation of a democratic, pro-American Afghanistan able to suppress radical Islamism in its own territory, is unattainable with current forces — and probably unattainable with far larger forces. Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the Afghan strategy, has been nominated to become the head of the CIA. With Petraeus departing from the Afghan theater, the door is open to a redefinition of Afghan strategy. Despite Pentagon doctrines of long wars, the United States is not going to be in a position to engage in endless combat in Afghanistan. There are other issues in the world that must be addressed. With bin Laden’s death, a plausible (if not wholly convincing) argument can be made that the mission in AfPak, as the Pentagon refers to the theater, has been accomplished, and therefore the United States can withdraw.

No withdrawal strategy is conceivable without a viable Pakistan. Ideally, Pakistan would be willing to send forces into Afghanistan to carry out U.S. strategy. This is unlikely, as the Pakistanis don’t share the American concern for Afghan democracy, nor are they prepared to try directly to impose solutions in Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan can’t simply ignore Afghanistan because of its own national security issues, and therefore it will move to stabilize it.

The United States could break with Pakistan and try to handle things on its own in Afghanistan, but the supply line fueling Afghan fighting runs through Pakistan. The alternatives either would see the United States become dependent on Russia — an equally uncertain line of supply — or on the Caspian route, which is insufficient to supply forces. Afghanistan is war at the end of the Earth for the United States, and to fight it, Washington must have Pakistani supply routes.

The United States also needs Pakistan to contain, at least to some extent, Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. The United States is stretched to the limit doing what it is doing in Afghanistan. Opening a new front in Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is well beyond the capabilities of either forces in Afghanistan or forces in the U.S. reserves. Therefore, a U.S. break with Pakistan threatens the logistical foundation of the war in Afghanistan and poses strategic challenges U.S. forces cannot cope with.

The American option might be to support a major crisis between Pakistan and India to compel Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. However, it is not clear that India is prepared to play another round in the U.S. game with Pakistan. Moreover, creating a genuine crisis between India and Pakistan could have two outcomes. The first involves the collapse of Pakistan, which would create an India more powerful than the United States might want. The second and more likely outcome would see the creation of a unity government in Pakistan in which distinctions between secularists, moderate Islamists and radical Islamists would be buried under anti-Indian feeling. Doing all of this to deal with Afghan withdrawal would be excessive, even if India played along, and could well prove disastrous for Washington.

Ultimately, the United States cannot change its policy of the last 10 years. During that time, it has come to accept what support the Pakistanis could give and tolerated what was withheld. U.S. dependence on Pakistan so long as Washington is fighting in Afghanistan is significant; the United States has lived with Pakistan’s multitiered policy for a decade because it had to. Nothing in the capture of bin Laden changes the geopolitical realities. So long as the United States wants to wage — or end — a war in Afghanistan, it must have the support of Pakistan to the extent that Pakistan is prepared to provide support. The option of breaking with Pakistan because on some level it is acting in opposition to American interests does not exist.


This is the ultimate contradiction in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and even the so-called war on terror as a whole. The United States has an absolute opposition to terrorism and has waged a war in Afghanistan on the questionable premise that the tactic of terrorism can be defeated, regardless of source or ideology. Broadly fighting terrorism requires the cooperation of the Muslim world, as U.S. intelligence and power is inherently limited. The Muslim world has an interest in containing terrorism, but not the absolute concern the United States has. Muslim countries are not prepared to destabilize their countries in service to the American imperative. This creates deeper tensions between the United States and the Muslim world and increases the American difficulty in dealing with terrorism — or with Afghanistan.

The United States must either develop the force and intelligence to wage war without any assistance — which is difficult to imagine given the size of the Muslim world and the size of the U.S. military — or it will have to accept half-hearted support and duplicity. Alternatively, it could accept that it will not win in Afghanistan and will not be able simply to eliminate terrorism. These are difficult choices, but the reality of Pakistan drives home that these, in fact, are the choices.

ISI Boxes CIA into a Corner


April 15, 2011 Christine Fair


With America looking for an endgame in Afghanistan, Washington has been ratcheting up the U.S. presence—both military and civilian—in Pakistan over the last year, a means of increasing efforts in order to withdraw. But most troubling for Pakistan’s intelligence services were all those new CIA boots on the ground. With Pakistani allegiances split between America and its enemies, a reckoning was inevitable.

The Raymond Davis affair [3] was a game changer. It was not a coincidental encounter in a dodgy part of Lahore between two Pakistani ruffians and an American—who just happened to be a well-trained former special operator. Far from it. Mr. Davis was protecting a CIA cell that was trying to collect information [4] on the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the ISI’s chief assets in its proxy war with India. Sources in Pakistan suggest that the ISI was unaware of this cell’s activities and when it learned of them, was nonplussed.

Likely, the ISI was unwilling to tolerate the CIA’s expanding —and increasingly unchecked—activities and wanted to stage an event that created enough fallout for them to reset the relationship with Washington on terms more palatable to the ISI. The Raymond Davis affair was that well-calibrated event. The two men that Davis killed are alleged by Pakistani sources to have been tied to the ISI [5], likely as contractors. It is important to note that the two Pakistanis did not target the case officers that Davis was protecting. That would have been far too risky. The two Pakistanis were expendable and Davis was a pawn that would wrench concessions from Washington but not bring the wrath of the United States upon Pakistan.

Once Davis was taken into custody Pakistan’s rival political parties—the PPP, currently in power, and the PML-N, which dominates the Punjab—began to manipulate the situation for their own ends. No doubt at that point the ISI was anxious to invoke a quick end to the affair; no desire to have its agenda hijacked by Pakistan’s noisy political elites. Ultimately, Davis was released after “blood money” was paid and in the wake of weeks of political brinkmanship [6], amidst well-orchestrated Pakistani public outrage.

Pakistani interlocutors explain that the ISI likely put pressure on the families to accept this dayat as a means of ending the judicial process that was going nowhere. (In Pakistan, families who are aggrieved even by such high crimes as homicide can drop the case if they are paid for their losses.) American officials deny paying this dayat and many suspect (and claim) the ISI may have forked over the cash [7]—money being fungible, it hardly makes a difference.

The incident succeeded in creating the strategic space that the ISI needed to reset relations and gain control over US operations in Pakistan. This week, Pakistan cashed in on the Davis affair. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI, came to the United States and delivered several stark demands [8] that included scaling back the successful drone program [9] and withdrawing some three hundred thirty-five American personnel, including CIA officers, contractors and special operations forces, from Pakistan. While irksome to US officials, to me, the ISI’s straightforward declaration that US activities in Pakistan are unacceptable is also oddly refreshing.

Typically, both Washington and Langley, on the one hand, and Islamabad and Rawalpindi, on the other, avoid straightforward talk in public. Both sides make various disingenuous proclamations while reviling each other in private. Both sides have long concluded that the other is attempting to undermine them. Both are right.

Pasha’s bold move is an important departure from the routinized method of circumlocuting the simple fact that the United States and Pakistan have strategic interests that are increasingly on a collision course. The increasing autonomy enjoyed by America’s intelligence presence would have vexed any sovereign country—Pakistan or otherwise.

The ball is now in Washington’s court. The ISI has concluded that the United States needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the United States and thus is loath to cut off security or economic assistance. Pakistan’s security elites no doubt were also emboldened by their position because Pakistan remains the single most important supply route for the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. Until the United States downsizes, the northern distribution line will never be adequate. Pakistan is the only game in town to get the job done. It is no coincidence that just as the Raymond Davis affair was winding down—and as the ISI’s demands were becoming ever more clear—reporting about Pakistan’s burgeoning nuclear-weapons program reached a frenzied crescendo. Pakistan knows that the United States more than anything else wants to retain an ability to peer into Islamabad’s nuclear box howsoever limited those glimpses may be.

The ISI surely calculated that the CIA would begrudgingly accept these limitations while continuing to seek work-arounds. But in the end, Pakistan’s spooks may well be right. In this game of chicken, the Americans are likely to swerve.