Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A double game: Real cooperation between US and Pakistan?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pakistanis and Americans, contrary to the formal denials of the Pakistanis, have been cooperating in the recent drone attacks against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. It turns out that the Pakistanis have been sufficiently helpful for the attacks to become better targeted. This report makes me wonder that I actually did see something in an early version of the the NYTimes article on the subject a couple days ago, a statement that was purged in later editions, claiming that the Pakistanis have complained that the drones have not been targeted their bad guys, only the ones troubling Afghanistan. I'm still not sure that that is what I read [foolishly lost the text] but this article almost says it -- well, not quite.
What this reminds us is that we cannot believe all that we are told: governments tell the stories they want people to hear, not what they know is accurate. All the more reason we need to be seeking various sources for what we think. Even then we have to assume we are living in a world of contrived myths, contrived by those who know better and who want us to accept their judgment. I used to condemn Cheney for this but he did not invent such a practice, which of course is as old as the human imagination.
Here I note some of the key statements in the Wall Street Journal article.

Wall Street Journal * FEBRUARY 18, 2009

Pakistan Lends Support for U.S. Military Strikes
Leaders Continue to Condemn Air Attacks, but a Private Shift in Policy Aims to Aid Drone Assault on Militant Targets more in US »

Pakistan's leaders have publicly denounced U.S. missile strikes as an attack on the country's sovereignty, but privately Pakistani military and intelligence officers are aiding these attacks and have given significant support to recent U.S. missions, say officials from both countries.

American unmanned Predator aircraft have killed scores of Islamic militants in Pakistan in more than 30 missile strikes since August, provoking outrage in the South Asian nation. Two in the past four days have killed more than 50 suspected militants. Yet, with the Taliban pushing deeper into the country, Pakistan's civilian and military leaders, while publicly condemning the attacks, have come to see the strikes as effective and are passing on intelligence that has helped recent missions, say officials from both countries.

As a result, "the Predator strikes are more and more precise," said a Pakistani official.

Eleven of al Qaeda's top 20 commanders have been killed or captured since August because of the Predator missions conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to the Pakistani official, and current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

. . . Maj. Gen Akhtar Abbas, a spokesman for the military, said Pakistan and the U.S. "have a long history of military cooperation and intelligence sharing." But he said it doesn't include the missiles strikes. "We have made our opposition clear," he said. "The strikes are counterproductive."

But other Pakistani officials say there has been a shift in Pakistan's private response to U.S. insistence the strikes go ahead. Initially, Pakistani complaints were genuine, these officials say, and reflected widespread discontent with the U.S.-led war on terror.

But after Pakistan's complaints were repeatedly rebuffed by the U.S. and with the Taliban making gains against the Pakistani military and the police, these officials say President Asif Ali Zardari and top military leaders decided in recent months to aid the American effort in the hopes it will help them regain control over the tribal areas. . . .

The protests are "really for the sake of public opinion," said one Pakistani official. "These operations are helping both sides. We are partners on this."

A former U.S. intelligence official said cooperation has always been strong between the two countries' intelligence services. "There's always been a double game," the former official said. "There's the game they'll play out in public [but] there has always been good cooperation."

. . . Most of the Predator strikes have so far targeted al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who attack U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, using Pakistan's tribal areas only as a rear base. But in exchange for helping the U.S., Washington is "sharing more intelligence with" Islamabad on Taliban factions focused on toppling Pakistan's government, said the Pakistani official.

While officials say there is overlap between the Pakistani Taliban, who fight under the banner of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban, the two are considered distinct networks with different aims.

. . . A senior ISI officer acknowledged his agency maintains contacts with Afghan Taliban leaders at or the near the top of the U.S. target list, such as Mullah Nazeer and Jalaluddin Haqqani. The officer said Mr. Haqqani could be "a force for stability" in Afghanistan, and insisted that he and other Taliban leaders spend most of their time in that country, not Pakistan, as U.S. officials assert.

—Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.

The Wall Street Journal, page A12

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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