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CIA-ISI love affair

Apparently, the ISI has the upper hand over the CIA, though a heavy cost might incur by that move.

Historically the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has always worked as credible agency for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The subservient relation of ISI with CIA has immensely damaged the reputation of Pak army and Pakistani government. The imposition of US policies in Pakistan through ISI has gravely deteriorated the civilian institutions; in fact the multiple military coups were the result of that strategy.

The terrorist attacks on state functionaries, suicide bombings and killings go in favour of both the agencies, because the war-like situation justifies the presence CIA and its counterpart in the volatile area.

US helicopters frequently violate Pakistan’s airspace and kill a number of people in the bordering area with Afghanistan. The CIA stepped up the frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan after the NATO oil tankers were alighted.

The American citizen, Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight and caught by traffic police wardens was identified as a CIA contractor detailed to provide security at the US consulate in Lahore. The United States said that the assignment gave Davis the diplomatic immunity and he should be released immediately.

The CIA and ISI chiefs, Leon Panetta and Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha spoke on the phone. The ISI chief asked CIA chief to provide the information about all CIA operatives in Pakistan. Analysts say that in the present scenario ISI and CIA are locked in an intense battle to secure their respective countries’ interests in the region.

The CIA reportedly agreed to reveal the required information and allowed more cooperation in its drone strike operations.  But it has, so far, resisted the demand to cut down the number of drone strikes targeted within Pakistan, and even after Raymond Davis was released, a drone in North Waziristan killed civilians in large number. Nevertheless, the sharing of information with ISI may hampers US efforts to target enemy combatants even if the move doesn’t actually eliminate the possibility of striking innocent civilians.

A meeting between Leon Panetta and Lt-Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha took place at CIA headquarter, USA. The American media covered that meeting and reported differently. In fact the three-day visit which was shortened to one day had caused speculations among the media. There was a heated exchange between the heads of the allied secret intelligence agencies. It is quite obvious that ISI intended to use the recent imbroglio of Raymond Davis affair as a bargaining tool on the negotiating table.

Another report of the US media said the CIA had been trying to cooperate with ISI, though it had not removed any personnel from Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence had demanded that the CIA reveal more substance about its operations, the drone surveillance and other activities within Pakistan. Moreover, the ISI asked the CIA to reduce the number of drone strikes in the Pakistani territory.

Apparently, the ISI has the upper hand over the CIA, though a heavy cost might incur by that move. We have yet to see the impact of the current strained relations on military operations and politics in Pakistan. The frequency of drone strikes, an unacknowledged CIA programme that the US considers its most successful weapon against al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership and which relies on at least some Pakistani cooperation, also has fallen, with just nine strikes in March compared to a peak of 22 in September 2010.

But the revelation that armed CIA contractors like Davis, were working in Pakistan deeply angered and embarrassed the ISI. But no matter how bruised the relations become, US-Pakistani ties are too strategic to unravel. The experts of military politics say that most of mess in our soil is created by these two powerful groups. In past CIA operatives were dependent on ISI but Musharraf regime gave CIA all kind of opportunities to set their moving and static base stations in different areas of Pakistan.

The CIA and ISI chiefs, Leon Panetta and Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha spoke on the phone. The ISI chief asked CIA chief to provide the information about all CIA operatives in Pakistan.
 Now, given the fiery situation in Pakistan, the ISI has started squeezing concessions from US military and CIA. Pakistan Army knows that the US government and the CIA cannot succeed in hunting al Qaeda’s leadership and operatives without the cooperation from Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

A report in Wall Street Journal says that relations between Washington and Islamabad historically have never been easy, and now they seem to have reached something of a watershed. The fault is not all one-sided. Congressional potentates have made a habit of criticizing Pakistan publicly even when it was cooperating with the US and deploying thousands of troops to fight Taliban, and promised American aid has been haltingly.

Islamabad’s US cooperation has also been double-edged. President Asif Ali Zardari allowed the US to increase the number of drone strikes, yet it has made a point of complaining about them publicly to shore up his waning popularity.

The US has a vital national interest in pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both for the sake of the war in Afghanistan and the security of the American homeland. Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the US and face the consequences, including the loss of military aid, drone attacks and others.

The WSJ further adds that in the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration famously sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad to explain that the US was going to act forcefully to protect itself, and that Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on.

It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.

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