Wednesday, February 1

Who was the leaker at NATO? (UPDATED 2X)

(First updated version, at 4:55 PM ET, added a few clarifications. The second update, at the end of the post, is a question from a reader and my reply.)

A reader asked, in response to the Dragon Lady post, if I was implying that the British command at NATO was behind the leaked report. No; I was simply responding to Rashid's comment. As much as I like to blame the British foreign office for too much rain in Washington or too little, I can't feature Cameron or anyone in the MoD authorizing such a leak. Of course the one time I'm willing to let the British off the hook could be the time I was wrong, but if I had to take a guess as to which government had its fingerprints on the leak, it would be Germany.

Here's the reasoning behind my guess:

The real point of the NATO leak is that most Afghans are willing to put up with the Taliban; that's not true but that's the meta-message of the report -- the part of the report that was leaked. The implied conclusion is, 'So then what is NATO doing in Afghanistan?'

Germany's government wants out of Afghanistan even more than the French or the British. The German command in NATO might have become concerned that Obama was building a case for war with Pakistan -- or at least military operations in the country that would drag the EU even deeper into the mess.

The Germans have more on their plate right now than any other major country including the United States because the EU is staring into the abyss. The concern in many quarters is that the 2008 financial meltdown might have been just a prelude to what's coming. There are too many variables at this point to call how it will all shake out. But I think whether or not the worst-case economic scenario materializes, the Germans feel it's imperative to wash their hands of the entire 'AFPAK' matter right now, and leave it to the Northern Alliance, with covert help from India, Russia and Iran (and posssibly China) to settle Pakistan's hash in Afghanistan. As to whether that means they'd go as far as to leak that report to drum up more support for a very early exit from Afghanistan, well, desperation is the mother of many things.

Again, I'm guessing.
Reader question: "Pundita, you don't think the leaker could be Sarkozy, who hates Karzai?"

I think that's too obvious. Sarkozy has already made his case publicly known and in spectacular fashion. But Sarkozy's announced plan to leave A'stan a year early would be the perfect opportunity for Germany. I think Merkel wants Europe out of A'stan even earlier than Sarkozy does. So if ever there was a perfect time for Germany to try and tip the scales of NATO involvement in A'Stan, it's now. Bonus for Merkel: the leak would be blamed on the USA (that's who Islamabad is blaming -- see Rashid's interview -- or France.)

It's possible that Panetta's statements on 60 Minutes about Pak-OBL, most of which were made available at least two days in advance of the broadcast, might have raised alarms that Obama was starting to make a case for boots on the ground in Pakistan, even though State scrambled to do damage control in Islamabad about Panetta's statements.

One other point about Sarkozy: A big question in my mind is whether the US command in A'stan managed to hide from other ISAF members the pattern of increasing number of NATO troops killed by ANA soldiers, or the number of troops killed, until the NYT report ripped the lid off the situation.

If the answer is yes -- if the French command at NATO had to learn the story from the Times -- I think Sarkozy's fury might have been directed more at Obama or the US command at NATO than Karzai.

Again, it's just a question I have but one that keeps me up at night.

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