I don't see how we can trust Pakistan. Take a peek at our diplomatic and military relations from a historical viewpoint. I remember being concerned about Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and wondered if Pakistan’s ruler at the time, Pervvez Musharraf, was "walking the talk" when he declared that he was America's ally in the war against terrorism. Are we forgetting the anti-American sentiment that exploded in Pakistan after our 2001 Afghanistan invasion and how Islamic extremists enjoyed total freedom in Pakistan’s tribal border areas? They continue to cross the Afghanistan border to attack American soldiers and retreat back to their sanctuary at will.
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I have no faith in Pakistan's decree that they will be America's ally in the fight against radical Islam, and much of my doubt surrounds Benazir Bhutto's assassination. I remember hoping that her son and husband would be able to incite the same fervor for change that she did...but to no avail. In November of last year, Pakistan filed charges in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan claimed two senior police officers and five Taliban militants were responsible for Bhutto's assassination after she made a dramatic return from exile to run for election in 2007. The police officers—including the chief of police at the time in Rawalpindi, where Bhutto was killed—were charged with security breaches and failing to protect Bhutto. As we all remember, Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack while campaigning in an election that was ultimately won by her husband, the current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Roughly three years ago, I attended an Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) symposium outside Washington, DC. The topic of al Qaeda's role in Pakistan was the central topic of formal lectures presented by intelligence specialists, in subsequent small group discussions, and at gatherings around the hotel watering hole later on in the evening.
My distrust of Pakistan's government and intelligence service, the ISI, was reinforced by what I heard at the AFIO symposium. Many retired and still active intelligence analysts and operatives I met there shared my distrust. They did not see Pakistan’s Musharraf as being America‘s warrior against radical Islam. Here’s three reasons why:
(1) Rashid Rauf. Remember him? A British national of Pakistani descent, he was a major player in the international plot to detonate bombs on transatlantic jumbo jets in August 2006. Rauf, 25, was arrested by Pakistani intelligence agents in August after a tip-off from their British counterparts. Rauf was eager to surpass 9-11’s American death toll by funding and training 26 Pakistani British nationals to pack the liquid chemical peroxide-based TATP in their carry-on luggage, concealed in drink and toothpaste containers. They intended to board a dozen Continental, United and American Airlines jumbo jets leaving Britain for New York City, Washington D.C. and California. Once over the Atlantic, they planned to ignite the explosives with detonators hidden in cell phones and MP3 players. Before the plan was made public, Pakistani authorities arrested Rashid Rauf for possessing false identity papers and bomb-making materials. The British intelligence service (MI-5) was already on to the terrorist scheme and repeatedly attempted to extradite Rauf under the deception that he murdered his uncle in Birmingham, England. Still, Pakistani authorities would not release him.
While MI-5 swooped down and arrested all 24 of Rauf’s terrorist buddies around London, the terrorism charges against Rashid were mysteriously dropped by the Pakistani court and, shortly after, he “escaped” from his jail cell after freeing himself from handcuffs. Let’s see…12 jumbo jets carrying an average of 500 American passengers each… Rashid roams free. Do the math and connect the dots.
(2) The Frontier Corps fiasco is what heightened my distrust of Pakistan's rulers. Remember, under the Bush administration we sent billions of dollars of our tax monies to fund this new paramilitary force of 80,000 soldiers? I thought President Bush made a correct choice and backed his decision 100%. They were expected to aggressively hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban militants throughout Pakistan‘s remote tribal areas. However, America's all in the war on terrorism wasted the funds on heavy arms, like harpoon missiles to sink warships, F-16 fighter jets, and howitzers to wage conventional war against their rival and our friend, India.
Thus, without counterinsurgency training, night-vision equipment or communications gear, the Frontier Corps, wearing sandals and toting obsolete bolt-action rifles, suffered defeat whenever they engaged the cunning al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists armed with deadly AK-47 assault rifles and grenade launchers.
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My trust in the Pakistani government and its ISI, as a loyal ally, took a nosedive as I witnessed General Musharraf squander America's multi-billion dollar counterinsurgency subsidy. President Bush exerted heavy political pressure for them to attack the militants in the tribal areas, but he was ignored. Meanwhile, al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan swelled in both number and courage.
(3) Lastly, my trust turned to disbelief when Pakistan gave the Taliban military aid. Let me explain. The CIA operates secretly in Afghanistan and Pakistan and doubled their number of case officers (CO) embedded throughout the region. These CO’s recruited local spies in high and low-level positions, enabling US intelligence to expose Pakistan’s true nature. The CIA “acquired” (embezzled) official documents that make it clear that before 9/11, the Pakistani government sent arms and soldiers to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. And, Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) still protected Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists in the tribal areas.
The CIA was certain that devoted Islamic extremists operated within ISI’s ranks.I remember hoping, a while ago, that Benazir Bhutto’s surviving son and husband could incite the same fervor for change as she did, and I prayed that the Pakistani Government would protect them from harm. My hopes are not rising, for her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has indeed become President of Pakistan. But this position makes him a mere figurehead who has no true executive power. He can't make decisions and executive authorizations.
It is the Prime Minister of Pakistan who enjoys the power to execute decisions and operations- he is the one who OK's every decision and decree that President Asif Ali Zardari makes from his presidential palace in north east Islamabad. Maybe, some day, President Asif Ali Zardari, or possibly his son, will gain enough influence to become the new, influential Prime Minister of Pakistan, like Benazir Bhutto was.
Yes, I will continue to hope that either Bhutto's husband or son will become Pakistan's next Prime Minister. If so, I wonder if they will be assassinated, like their respective wife and mother was?
Robert Morton, Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean". He is always looking for different perspectives regarding the Intelligence Community- got a thought, article or comment you'd like to submit? Contact him on the Secure Contact Form