Jul 26, 2010

WikiLeaks: A View from Pakistan


The WikiLeaks Fiasco
by Ali K.Chishti
Daily Times

WikiLeaks, a Swedish whistleblower project which consists of activist journalists who had previously leaked videos and articles embarrassing the US Government Sunday leaked damaging 90,000 top secret documents of US military records consisting on cables, internal memos and emails sent out to various DoD officials related to Afghanistan revealing and again exposing i)how coalition forces have killed thousands of civilians in unreported incidents ii) Talibans attacks have soared and iii) and how NATO commanders fear neighboring Pakistan & Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

And while Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L.Jones (the same man McChrystal called an “oldie”) deplored the disclosure of classified information putting that it “would put the lives of Americans and US partners at risk”. A top Pakistani diplomat responded that, “the leaks are troubling and shows the nature of alliance and trust between the US & Pakistan which could only be termed as “damaging” to Pakistan and Pakistani Military”.

The most disturbing aspect of the WikiLeaks is the “ISI’s working alongside Al-Qaeda” to plan attacks and as the NYT puts it, “The behind the scene’s frustration of soldiers on the ground and flimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike to Qaeda havens.” Another document on WikiLeaks describes how the ISI trains group of insurgents and has a pool of suicide bombers used to destabilize peace in Afghanistan. One such report from Dec, 18, 2006 describes how suicide bombers are recruited and trained in Pakistan and sent out on missions where ANP (Afghan National Police) helps them to carry out their missions.

While ISI official in Pakistan failed to comment on the WikiLeaks and would only do so after examining the papers, ISI and Pakistan have to do a lot more serious PR to get out this latest scandal. According to an embarrassed US Army official who works closely with Pakistanis commented on the whole WikiLeaks incident, “now we have to face an ISI who would be more angry and suspicious on us and where we think the whole WikiLeak is ISI specific and is definitely an attempt to strain relationship between the two allies”. Apparently the word "ISI" in 90,000 documents appeared more than 50,000+ times” said a source from WikiLeaks who himself sheepishly admitted that, “the Americans soldiers and CIA seems to be ISIphobic”. Accordingly to the WikiLeak, “we are not helping making an opinion about anyone – we are just interested in transparency”.

In what we call the most direct allegation on the Pakistani top-spy agency, the ISI the WikiLeaks gives an insiders view of how top American defense official’s view ISI role “who is rigidly hierarchical organization that has little tolerance for roge” activity”; where it is worth mentioning that according to WikiLeaks, ISI’s S-Wing which deals with external operations had been given “broad-autonomy” which if, true shatters the assertion that ISI is in the control of the army and is allowed “freelance missions”. In another disturbing account reported is how CIA’s deputy director, Stephen R.Kappes confronts Pakistanis officials with evidence that the ISI helped planned a deadly suicide bombing on India’s Embassy in Kabul in July, 2008 or how in August, 2008 an ISI presumably “gone-rouge” colonel plotted to assassinate President Hamid Karzai? news which could potentially disturb Pakistan’s new-found relationship with Hamid Karzai who had recently emerged as Pakistan’s staunch ally in Kabul.

Another aspect of the WikiLeaks is how PAKMIL (a word used to describe the Pakistani Army) helps the Taliban destabilize ISAF/NATO in Afghanistan: describing the networks of Pakistani assets and collaborators that run from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

And finally the view and damaging details which could in point of fact leads to an arrest of Pakistan’s former top spy-master and general Hameed Gul who after almost two decades of retirement from the ISI, “don’t seem to be out of work”. WikiLeaks documents in detail indicate and confirms that Hameed Gul still works tirelessly with Haqqanis and Hekmatyar to destabilize Afghanistan and in some cases given an impression that Hameed Gul acts as a “front man” and a “proxy” for the ISI. The amazing leaks gives out a detailed example where Hameed Gul met with Afghan Talibans and “three older Arab men” (presumably Al Qaeda) to plan and avenge the death of “Zamarai” an important Al-Queda leader who was killed by a drone attack. In another report, our wily ol’Gen Gul urged, Taliban commanders, “to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning a “a blind eye” to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Well, the ever-dismissive Gen Gul dismissed the report terming it as, “another conspiracy” and “absolute non-sense”. An interior ministry source failed to comment on Hameed Gul but confirmed “a proper investigation would take place” – another, source from an intelligence agency confirmed that Hameed Gul had, “always been on our radar” and is known to make “random trips and communications to the tribal areas”.

All in all, if WikiLeaks are to be believed (and their reputation is reliable), Pakistan has a lot of cleaning to do. However, what one must realize that the whole, time-frame of the 90,000+ leaks was between 2004-2009 before the whole Af-Pak Policy was laid down by the new administration in the White House and prior to the US-PAK Strategic dialogues in which Gen.Ashfaq Keyani himself gave out a long presentation winning many admirers within the US administration. However, although the new WikiLeaks fiasco is embarrassing for both the United States and Pakistan as it reflects the “mistrust” between one of the two closest allies in the War on Terror – what one must do from now is realize that without each other we cannot win this war and where the Pakistani Military needs to come clean on folks like Hameed Gul; the United States has to realize Pakistan has legitimate concerns in Afghanistan and try to stop such embarrassing leaks.
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(Mr. Ali Chisti is a political and counter-terrorism expert who can be reached at akchishti@hotmail.com)

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