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Friday, April 22

Adm. Mullen CYA as Rana prepares to rat out ISI. Meanwhile Rawalpindi rats out Obama and Cameron.

"Adm. Mullen has long been the most outspoken member of the U.S. government in support of Pakistan's military efforts. Adm. Mullen has used his close relationship with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief of staff, to prod the military to step up its actions against militants."
- Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2010

On April 20 America's top military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, seemingly turned on a dime. In Pakistan to meet with senior military officials, he told Pakistan's largest-circulation English language newspaper, Dawn:
"It's fairly well known that the ISI has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani network. Haqqani is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans and killing coalition partners. And I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn't happen. So that's at the core -- it's not the only thing -- but that's at the core that I think is the most difficult part of the relationship."
Long War Journal's Bill Roggio is skeptical about the strength of Mullen's grasp of the concept of sacred obligation; Bill points out that Mullen had stopped short of addressing the key point, which is that Pakistan's military actively supports the Haqqanis:
"Pakistani officials of course denied supporting the Haqqani Network, and claim they haven't taken on the Haqqani Network due to the focus on the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This of course is untrue, and Admiral Mullen of course knows that."
Yes. Bill adds: "Despite his 'sacred obligation' to stop US soldiers dying at the hands of Pakistan-backed terror groups, Admiral Mullen cannot bring himself to call Pakistan to account for its actions. And as a result, more US soldiers will die as the dyfunctional 'alliance' between the two nations is nursed along."

True, true, all true; however, that Admiral Mullen would risk the close relationship he's cultivated with General Kayani by publicly uttering an implied criticism of Pakistan's military is an eyebrow raiser; that he did this at the worst juncture in U.S.-Pakistan relations since 2001 and while a guest of Pakistan's government was confounding. (1)

I don't think one has to dig deep for the solution to the mystery. On April 12, the day after ISI head Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha spent four hours dressing down CIA chief Leon Panetta and Admiral Mullen about CIA activities in Pakistan, the Times of India reported that court documents had been made public indicating that a conspirator in the 2008 Mumbai massacre was prepared to rat out the ISI in U.S. courtroom testimony. According to the Times of India:
David Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the two Pakistani expat footsoldiers who allegedly planned and conducted the Mumbai recce before the 26/11 terrorist carnage, have implicated the Pakistani government and its intelligence agency ISI in the ghastly attack.

In court documents that have surfaced ahead of his upcoming trial in Chicago, Rana says his acts of providing material support to terrorists in the Mumbai attacks as alleged by US prosecutors "were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organization."

The documents also cite Rana invoking his friend David Headley's Grand Jury testimony in which the latter too implicates ISI.
A report filed in today's edition of the Asia Times Online about the upcoming trial underscores the seriousness of Rana's claim:
What observers believe could be the most significant outcome of the trial is an irrefutable evidence of ISI complicity. The jury, according to the documents, could have Rana and Headley confess that they were with the Lashkar and the ISI.

Headley has already admitted that he worked for the ISI, but it was a secret testimony heard by a grand jury. "I also told him (Rana) how I had been asked to perform espionage work for the ISI," Headley had reportedly owned up.

Some time ago [Headley] had turned an FBI informer, primarily to escape the electric chair, and at the Chicago hearing he is expected to make a clean breast of his involvement in the Mumbai bloodbath. His anticipated account of the surveillance plan for the Mumbai attacks could lead to clinching proof against Rana.
I interject that the report refers to the ISI as having "alleged" ties with the Pakistani army but that's an error. The ISI is a branch of the military and despite the compartmentalization of the two agencies to provide deniability for the military, the ISI does nothing of substance without the knowledge and orders of the military.

However, the key point is there's clear indication that within a matter of days, when the Rana trial gets underway, the shit is finally going to hit the fan. In my view that means Mullen is scrambling to cover his ass. And if Rana really does sing like a bird, Mullen won't be the only one in Washington scrambling.

Yet to illustrate just how sincere the U.S. military command and the Obama administration are about taking Pakistan's military to task, it surfaced today that under pressure from Rawalpindi the Obama administration had agreed to provide Pakistan's military with 85 'Raven' surveillance drones.

That the drones are small-sized versions of the ones the CIA uses in Pakistan and aren't armed is not the central point. The point is that Pakistan's military doesn't need drones to monitor activities of terror organizations in Pakistan under its control. And in any case it has its own drones -- not as nice as the Ravens but still serviceable. Pakistan's military and ISI want the Ravens to help monitor organizations in Pakistan that are unfriendly to Rawalpindi and to monitor India.

That's not the half of Washington's insincerity. On the same day Mullen was in Pakistan to chastise the ISI the Asia Times Online was reporting:
Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani led an unprecedented entourage, including Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani and Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the director general of the Inter-Service Intelligence, to Kabul last week to officially inaugurate the peace reconciliation process with the Taliban under the auspices of Washington and London.

The decision had already been made that the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments will occupy a central role in a reconciliation process that could bring the Taliban into the mainstream Afghan political process.
[...]
There is a long-held understanding within Pakistan's military that any reconciliation process with the Taliban would require a whole package dealing with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the affiliated group on one side and another with the Western coalition, India and other regional players. The job requires credible leadership.
According to the report's author, Asia Times Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad, the leadership is being supplied by Imran Khan; the report provides considerable detail to explain why this is so and why Khan is the next likely civilian leader of Pakistan.

With some understatement Khan is not U.S.- or NATO-friendly. At the time Shazad filed his report Khan was leading a two-day sit-in outside Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, "planned for Saturday and Sunday to block supply convoys ferrying goods to North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan."

Here I'll interject that last year Shahzad's sources inside Pakistan's military allowed him to scoop the rest of the press about the Saudi government's central role in backchannel negotiations between Karzai and the Taliban.

In the wake of Shahzad's bombshell report the negotiations were hotly denied in Kabul and Washington. Then the hotly-denied negotiations were ostentatiously abandoned with much fanfare to the press. But while details of the negotiations that Shahzad recounted sounded like Rawalpindi's wish list, the gist was true as had long been rumored. Many months prior to the Asia Times Online report in 2010, which they published on September 11 as their cute way of twisting the knife, John Batchelor's radio show had mentioned the deep involvement of the Saudi government in backchannel negotiations with the Taliban and Karzai's regime.

I bring up that history to underscore that Shahzad is not sitting around in his office in Islamabad making things up. He has good sources.

Of course one doesn't have good sources inside what's in effect a military dictatorship without acting as a conduit for the regime's propaganda. So elements of Shahzad's latest report, and I think in particular his talk about al Qaeda running rings around the ISAF, can be taken with a grain of salt. Yet even if Pakistan's military is simply using Imran Khan as a pawn in its chess game with the CIA, and even if his report overstates Pakistan's ability to cow Hamid Karzai, Shahzad raises an alarm that should be heeded.

His report as much shouts that Barack Obama and David Cameron are pussyfooting around, this time under cover of the din from Libya, still trying to toss the hot potato of Afghanistan to Rawalpindi.

The only way they could possibly pull off the feat is if Pakistan's military cooperated and put on a show of being a good NATO puppet. The show is threatening to flop before it gets to opening night if Rana spills his guts in a Chicago courtroom. And I think to bring this home to Washington, or maybe in the spirit of revenge, someone in Pakistan's army or ISI decided to point out the tracks of little cat feet.

As to how the pussyfooting helps General David Petraeus persuade Taliban and al Qaeda fighters that there's no use trying to wait out the ISAF, let's ask President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron for the answer.

(1) The Washington Post's David Ignatius, whose opinions in my view track with thinking at the U.S. Department of State, tried to downplay the seriousness of the disagreements between Islamabad and Washington in his April 11 column. But while there was an element of horse-trading in Rawalpindi's high dudgeon about the Raymond Allen Davis Affair and CIA activities in Pakistan, the New York Times report I linked to above, titled, Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities, is not as overblown as Ignatius portrayed it.

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