The CIA and ISI: Are Pakistan and the U.S.’s Spy Agencies Starting to Get Along?

Though the domestic environment in either country is hardly suitable for rapprochement, there are signs of a thaw between the U.S. and Pakistan, particularly in the dealings of their influential spy agencies

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Arif Hussain / Reuters

Lieut. General Zaheer-ul-Islam, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, attends a function in Karachi on Dec. 25, 2011

After months of relations languishing at an all-time low, Pakistan and the U.S. may now be opening up a fresh phase of engagement. Following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent apology for the loss of 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border checkpoint last November, NATO supplies are rumbling through again. Washington has also released funds for Pakistani military operations it had previously withheld. And, perhaps most crucially, the two fractious allies’ top spies are talking again, with a view to enhancing their cooperation as the 2014 deadline for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan looms.

The relationship between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has been at the core of Washington and Islamabad’s alliance for over a decade now — and sometimes the source of the mutual misery. After 9/11, both intelligence agencies collaborated closely to capture scores of al-Qaeda suspects. But over the past two years, as suspicions have grown, the two sides have become near adversaries.

(MORE: After bin Laden, ISI Chief Gets a Tongue-Lashing)

The ISI is often accused of supporting jihadist proxies attacking U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan — and is widely considered to have been either incompetent or complicit when it came to Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. The CIA was found to be operating independently within Pakistan’s jealously guarded territory, running unauthorized contractors, recruiting local informants and showering drones at their fiercest pace yet.

But as bitter memories of those disputes begin to recede and new faces assume leadership roles, there is some cautious optimism going forward now — this despite domestic imperatives in both countries (an election year in the U.S., the heated anti-American populism in Pakistan) making rapprochement difficult. Last month the new head of ISI, Lieut. General Zaheer-ul-Islam, made his first visit to Washington, meeting with top intelligence, defense and Administration officials. Tentative agreements were made in terms of joint operations against militants in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported. But, officials from both sides say, fundamental differences linger.

Little is known about General ul-Islam, but a change at the top of ISI will please U.S. security officials. The previous ISI chief, now retired Lieut. General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, had become fiercely hostile to Washington in his final year — engaging in “shouting matches” with then CIA director Leon Panetta, cutting cooperation down to a minimum, ordering the harassment of U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and locking up Shakil Afridi, the physician who ran a vaccination program in the town where bin Laden was found hiding.

Afridi is currently serving a 33-year sentence handed down to him by a tribal court. The charges were not explicitly for spying for the U.S., but there is little doubt in observers’ minds that this is the reason he was punished. Afridi wasn’t arrested for the alleged offenses he has been convicted for until the ISI discovered his vaccination program and links to the CIA. At one point, according to a Pakistani military official familiar with the discussions, the CIA suggested that the ISI strip Afridi of his nationality and hand him over to the U.S. General Pasha angrily refused, saying it would set a bad precedent — one that could encourage others to spy for foreign countries if there were no consequences. U.S. Congressmen reacted angrily to Afridi’s imprisonment, voting to cut $33 million of U.S. assistance to Pakistan, one million for each year he’s serving in prison. The question of Afridi’s fate will likely have come up during ul-Islam’s visit to the U.S. There may be no movement soon, but if relations between Washington and Islamabad grow warmer, the ISI may eventually be persuaded to arrange for Afridi’s quiet release.

(MORE: Why Did Pakistan’s Spy Chief Make a Secret Trip to China?)

The harassment of U.S. officials hasn’t changed much, says a U.S. official. Vehicles are constantly stopped, security personnel searched with unusual rigor, and there is even pressure on the U.S. to abandon the construction of a new consulate in Peshawar. On other fronts, ul-Islam has maintained a low profile, a decision thought to be influenced by his predecessor’s controversial visibility. “Unlike General Pasha,” says a senior politician from Pakistan’s opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, “we don’t see the new head of the ISI interfering in politics — yet.”

During the new ISI chief’s visit, U.S. officials repeated their long-standing concerns about the Haqqani network, a potent jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda that is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal territory along the Afghan border. From their sanctuary there, say U.S. officials, the group contentedly plots terrorist attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, before slipping back across the border. The ISI is widely suspected of offering the group support, with Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even describing the Haqqanis as “a veritable arm of the ISI” in his valedictory testimony before Congress last year.

The Pakistanis deny backing the Haqqanis but concede links with them and their reluctance to confront them. They plaintively cite a lack of resources and insist their priority is targeting militants mounting attacks inside Pakistan, but tellingly add that the Haqqanis will be crucial to any future Afghan settlement that Pakistan hopes to be a part of. But a series of unremitting, violent attacks in and around Kabul, authored by the Haqqanis, has intensified the pressure on the Pakistanis.

(MORE: Will Pakistan Deliver the Haqqanis to the Negotiating Table?)

Last October, Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, discussed the possibility of “limiting the space” given to the Haqqanis in North Waziristan with Clinton during her visit to Islamabad. The Pakistani army said it had certain contingency plans in place for limited, surgical operations to reclaim territory in some of North Waziristan’s main towns. These plans were shelved soon after, with the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers in November 2011. Now, as pressure builds again, with enduring attacks and Congressmen calling for the Haqqani network to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization, the plans will have to be revisited. The new U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, told U.S. lawmakers during his confirmation hearings last month that he will be committed to taking on the Haqqanis.

Without a Pakistani military operation against the Haqqanis, the CIA has focused on drone strikes against them and other militants in the region. The strikes, U.S. officials insist, are effective. Some Pakistani military officials also have conceded improved accuracy. But there are limits to what can be achieved by a drone-only strategy, and there are political costs. Drone strikes have not only become hugely unpopular in Pakistan, where the parliament has united in denouncing them, but also across the world. A Pew Research Center survey published in June found that majorities in countries as diverse as France, Germany, the Czech Republic, China, Japan, Brazil and Turkey opposed the widespread use of drone strikes.

An acknowledgment of the accumulating political costs may temper the frequency with which the CIA uses drone strikes. General David Petraeus, the new CIA director, is said to appreciate that the program is unsustainable. Previous CIA director Panetta was seen as being indulgent of “the CT guys and their shiny toys,” says the official. Drone strikes increased to a pace of one every four days at their height.

But there are certain points at which they are seen as a necessity — and they will continue to be used despite ul-Islam’s insistence last month in Washington that they stop. Just days after Clinton’s apology and the reopening of the NATO supply lines, a drone strike in North Waziristan reportedly killed 20 suspected militants. The actual figure, the U.S. official says, was lower. But it was a truck packed with explosives heading across the border. “It was a clear shot,” the official says. “We had to take it.” And that is one of the many differences in opinion that both sides will somehow have to learn to live with.

PHOTOS: Lashkars in Pakistan by Massimo Berruti

25 comments
KashifMalik
KashifMalik

my english is not strong. but i know u will understand. i m waiting 4 reply on my comment


geral sosbee
geral sosbee

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Viral Infection:

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geral sosbee
geral sosbee

See *my decades long reports on how the fbi/cia torture and kill dissidents globally with complete anonymity; today India and Thailand (and other countries) are actively using these techniques at the direction of fbi/cia/mi6/mossad.

                                                            fbi/cia methods to torture/kill w/complete anonymity

The fbi/cia now instruct intel groups OF India amp; Thailand how to kill or incapacitate Targets with complete anonymity.

Here are a few such ways which many in India and Thailand (et al) are now discovering:

Synthetically Produced Kidney Stone Created By Chemical Combination In the Person Of The Target:

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/part...

http://online.liebertpub.com/d...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/lett...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/high...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/toot...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/trac...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/myst...

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/non-...

http://sosbeevfbi.ning.com/for...

Torture and forced suicide:

http://www.boell.org/downloads...

"kill yourself" message:

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/hate...

Viral Infection:

http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/lett...

Aritra Gupta
Aritra Gupta

Pakistan is a terrorist state, nothing more. The Haqqani Network, the Al Qaeda are part of Pakistan's special forces, how can one expect a state to act against its own security forces?

How is it that an elite journal like Time allowed bahadur227's "bunderstani" comment?

I hope then, that on the basis of equality I may also be allowed to refer to Pakistan as Pussystan?

Irfan Khawaja
Irfan Khawaja

Amazing as it sounds, NATO, the world’s most powerful

military alliance, may be losing the only war the 61-year old pact every

fought. All its soldiers, heavy bombers, tanks, helicopter gunships, armies of

mercenaries, and electronic gear are being beaten by a bunch of lightly-armed

Afghan farmers and mountain tribesmen.

Obama appears to want out of the Afghan War. His final gamble of sending

30,000 more troops into the $7.5 billion monthly war has so far failed to

produce the hoped-for decisive victory. But powerful pro-war groups, including

the Pentagon, the arms industry and Republicans, are thwarting the weakened

Obama’s attempts to wind down the war.

US, Canadian and European politicians who backed the Afghan War fear

admitting the conflict was a huge waste of lives and treasure. Their political

careers hang in the balance. So what are 110,000 US

troops and 40,000 NATO troops doing in Afghanistan?

Certainly not nation-building. Most reports show Afghanistan

is in worse poverty and distress than before the US

invasion.

The only hope remains to work closely with Pakistan

to tackle this issue.

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

"Are Pakistan and the U.S.’s Spy Agencies Starting to Get Along?"

Pakistan is a country of leeches. It will get a long as along as it can get its LOOT in $$$$s. The country is a very (Islamic) fundamentalistic country. 90% of the people are hardcore fundamentalists. All these Islamic Fundamentalists believe that they are Muslim first and anything else next. So if the Pakistani spy agency seem to be getting along with US spy agency or for that matter with any US entity, it is because they can get their LOOT! Getting their loot this way is better than begging and they know it. Americans are too damn ignorant and naive not know the true colors of Pakistan.

kms123
kms123

In his testimony to Congress just before his retirement, Admiral Mullens stated that Pakistan actively supports terrorists. I don't think the situation has changed. The  Haqqanis continue to frequently attack US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. With all that we now know about our "ally", we must ask ourselves whether we can trust them.

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GrandpaTarkin
GrandpaTarkin

There is nothing "almost" about Pakistan being an enemy of the US. Pakistan's proxy force, he Haqqani network, is now behind most major attacks against US and afghan targets in Afghanistan, and whenever the US has acted against the Haqqani network Pakistan has retaliated by stopping the flow of supplies or having their taliban groups torch US tanker trucks in the Khyber pass.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the US' opposition in Afghanistan since several years isn't the taliban, it's Pakistan: all the strongest and most active taliban groups are funded, supplied, and controlled by Pakistan.

To that one might add things like that Pakistan sold debris from the crashed US stealth helicopter to China, that Pakistan has provided safe houses to refugee al qaeda and taliban leaders (including bin Laden), and that Pakistan is actively trying to destabilize Afghanistan. And let's not forget that Pakistan is the country which supplied nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Syria,  Libya and North Korea.

The art of diplomacy may be to say "nice doggy" until you can find a rock, but sooner or later the west must face the fact that Pakistan is a dedicated and implacable enemy of the west.

captainjohann
captainjohann

This is simple Myopia on the part of USA or needs of its Arms lobby. Haqqani network is part of ISI  and how US can expect pakistan to betray its own men?The Pakistanies know that the drone strikes are very crucial for CIA AND IS VERY EFFECTIVE Iin taking down some very top alqueada figures> the popular opinion actually does not care but it is being whipped up by religious parties allied to alqureda and LET>

Ivan
Ivan

Compared to pakistan, one can easily trust a angry cobra... point is pakistan is a state that can never be trusted..consider the following..Pakistan is the only state that has

* Indulged in open nuke proliferation - from North Korea to Libya and Iran all are on the list of nations that have recived nuke tech from Pak

* Supports over 7000 terror groups within its territory. By support i mean providing arms, finance and moral support. And most of these groups are today attacking countries as diverse as US, Afghanistan, China, India, Philipines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka

* Openly supported Al Qaeeda and its franchisees and played host to Osama

* which is an destabilising element in not just south asia, but the world

* Is helping china evolve into a regional hegemon

* Supresses freedom  movements in Sindh and Balochistan brutally and mercilessly

* Supresses minority rights

* Openly supports drugs and arms running along with drug trafficking..

So well done USA..you are on the right track...supporting a known terrorist state...whats next? Inducting North Korea as a key Non NATO Ally???

Salim Shaikh
Salim Shaikh

kms123, yes do not trust Pakistan as Pakistanis do not trust you at all....

Salim Shaikh
Salim Shaikh

Sorry, you got a short memory or probably was not in this world when USA created alqaeda, taliban and mujahideen in Regan era.  Ask your govt and straighten your record.  Now you are dumping your failures on Pakistan... probably a face saving as a super power!!!!

Salim Shaikh
Salim Shaikh

CIA/USA media lobby has always been false and against the ground realities...  You must admit and openly write that USA and its allies created al qaeda whom you are cursing day in and day out...  haqqani was once your blue eyed boy and now you want to eliminate through Pakistanis hands...  shame on your jewish tactics....

Salim Shaikh
Salim Shaikh

Clearly a jew-hindu lobby that spread disinformation about Pakistan.  Was Pakistan a terrorist state when Regan begged to fund and supplied arms through Pakistan for taliban to defeat Russia in Afghanistan.  A venomous propaganda against her allies by USA and esp jews of americans....

bahadur227
bahadur227

Grow up you RAW's paid agent .You bunderstanis have only one aim to melign Pakistan.The more hate and false flags you raise the more you will show your false side.For you and yor government must realise,how utterly you have failed to put a wedge between USA amp; Pakistan.The sooner you accept the truth sooner will be good for the world.

asterik9469
asterik9469

 Another angry indian. Just visited your blog, full of

propaganda! keep spreading hatred against Pakistan this is your fulltime job!

ua_troops
ua_troops

@Salim Shaikhyou rocked my bro SALIM SHAIKH, actually these Americans don't know the truth, they are just  hypnotized by their media, America is playing with their own people just to damage MUSLIMS all over the world, American should now understand this 

Aritra Gupta
Aritra Gupta

Hina Rabbani Khar taught you to say that?

Aritra Gupta
Aritra Gupta

And now Pakistan begs America annually for "aid"

Ammy Phull
Ammy Phull

Your full-time job is keeping your eyes, ears and mind CLOSED.

Ellen K. Holbrook
Ellen K. Holbrook

Afghanistan, and whenever the US has acted against the Haqqani network Pakistan has retaliated by stopping the flow of supplies or having their taliban groups torch US tanker trucks in the Khyber pass. http://Madeafortune.blogspot.c...