Cross-border terrorism, drone attacks and intelligence sharing are the three issues. The CIA says the Haqqani Network “represents a strategic threat to the stability of the Afghan state and US national security interests.” ISI says that anti-Pakistan militants based in safe havens of Kunar and Nuristan are a threat to Pakistan’s national security.
Lieutenant General Zahir-ul-Islam, a three-star general of the Pakistan Army currently the DG of the ISI, and General (r) David Petraeus, a four star general of the United States Army currently director of the CIA, may have reached a tactical understanding. East of Durand, Pak Army will launch Operation Tight Screw to tighten up the Haqqani Network. West of Durand, the United States Army will try and uproot anti-Pakistan militants in Kunar and Nuristan.
But willingness alone – on the part of the CIA and the ISI – will not do it; capacity would be crucial. West of Durand, the 49-member Isaf has explicit drawdown plans: 40,000 troops will leave Afghanistan by end-2012 of which 33,000 are being pulled out by the US East of Durand, XI Corps’ 9th Infantry Division is already engaged in South Waziristan and the Corps is left with just one Infantry Division (the 6th and the 27th Infantry Brigades are busy in Bajaur and Khyber, respectively).
Next; drone attacks. As far as the CIA is concerned, MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers are critical ingredients of America’s high-tech war strategy (the other being a widespread, powerful human spy network). The ISI’s position is that as long drones continue to violate our sovereignty, the ISI will not be able to build domestic counterterrorism support. We have also asked the Americans to stop drone attacks and upgrade our F-16s as an alternative.
Both these arguments are tactical in nature but have not – never have – found any buyer in America. Intelligence sharing, yes, the ISI and the CIA will both benefit making it a win-win tactical understanding.
At the strategic level, the ISI is confused. Saleem Safi, one of the most astute of all Af-Pak observers, explains: “Does Pakistan want a strong government in Afghanistan run by Hamid Karzai? The answer is yes, but at the same time we are told about the anti-Pakistan activities of some Afghan institutions. This gives the impression that Pakistan does not want a strong government run by Hamid Karzai in Kabul. However, this impression does not last long. Is Pakistan in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan who are against Karzai and the US? In reply they state the difficulties of taking that course, the international image of the Taliban and the probable negative impact on Pakistan if the Taliban take control of Kabul. So, while Pakistan doesn’t wish for Karzai to have a strong government it also fears a Taliban takeover of Kabul.”
At the strategic level, the CIA is also confused. The pro-war lobby led by Leon Panetta, secretary of defence, has teamed up with General Petraeus’ CIA. At the other end of the spectrum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry, seem to have lost the backing of an election-ridden White House. The CIA is in a classic ‘perfection of means, confusion of ends’ scenario.
Someone intelligent once said, “Strategy is buying a bottle of fine wine when you take a lady out for dinner. Tactics is getting her to drink it.”
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh15 @hotmail.com