What Kind of an Ally Is Pakistan?
Follow @azmatzahraJanuary 3, 2012, 3:13 pm ET
Tonight, along with our new film Opium Brides, FRONTLINE will rebroadcast Secret War, a revealing look at the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan and covert support for elements of the Taliban by the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI. Check your local listings or watch it online.
As the U.S.-Pakistan relationship continued to descend to new, new lows over the past year, the U.S. has become increasingly vocal in expressing frustrations with its supposed ally in the fight against terror — and vice versa. Here are a few recent reports that explore the latest tensions in this troubled relationship.
U.S. Prepares for a Curtailed Relationship With Pakistan — The New York Times (Dec. 25, 2011)
Pakistan and the U.S. may have reached a point of no return, according to a recent New York Times article by Eric Schmitt, who reports that Pakistan is in the midst of a “wide-ranging review” of the relationship:
The core priorities in the new relationship will include counterterrorism, ensuring the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and stabilizing Afghanistan, but Schmitt reports Pakistan will want the terms “spelled out in writing and agreed to in advance.”
The Ally From Hell — The Atlantic and National Journal (December 2011)
Concerns that the U.S. will attempt to “de-nuke” Pakistan have actually put the safety of the nation’s nuclear arsenal at greater risk, report Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in their controversial article that looks at Washington’s fears:
These claims, of course, did not go over well in Pakistan. Pakistan’s foreign ministry called the report “pure fiction” and “part of a deliberate propaganda campaign meant to mislead opinion.” The Pakistani Army sought to quell concerns by revealing details about the training and standards security forces undergo in the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), the security apparatus tasked with safeguarding the weapons. And Pakistani journalist Ejaz Haider went even further in questioning the report’s assertions, writing:
The Pakistanis Have A Point — The New York Times Magazine (Dec. 14, 2011)
Bill Keller chronicles this particularly disastrous year in Pakistan-U.S. relations, tracing both Washington’s ire over Pakistani support for terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s grievances against the U.S., including backlash over the CIA’s drone program. Keller describes two turning points — an explosive incident in which a CIA contractor shot two Pakistanis dead on a crowded street in Lahore early last year as well as November’s errant NATO airstrikes that mistakenly killed 26 Pakistani soldiers.
Keller argues that the lasting effects on the Pakistani psyche from these incidents is an important thread too often absent from the American narrative:
A Perfect Terrorist — ProPublica and FRONTLINE (Nov. 22, 2011)
The strongest public evidence to date of the Pakistani intelligence service’s complicity in terrorism came at the trial this summer of David Coleman Headley, an American citizen who confessed to involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. In November, FRONTLINE and ProPublica teamed up to explore how Headley, a former Drug Enforcement Agency informant, navigated a bizarre and conflicting set of alliances, and what the U.S. knew about Headley’s relationships with Pakistani intelligence and terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Journalist and the Spies — The New Yorker (Sept. 19, 2011)
Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad “seemed to know his time was running out” New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins observed when the two men met nine days before Shahzad’s waterlogged, tortured body was found outside Islamabad.
Days before he went missing, Shahzad had published a provocative report asserting that Al Qaeda had carried out a bold attack on Pakistan’s primary naval base in retaliation for crackdowns on Al Qaeda affiliates within Pakistan’s navy. Though many — including Pakistani journalists, human rights advocates and even unnamed Obama administration officials — have suspected or specifically cited ISI involvement in Shahzad’s death, Filkins’ investigation makes the most comprehensive case to date that his murder was ordered by the Pakistani state:
But Filkins’ report goes even further, speculating that the CIA may have benefited from intelligence extracted during Shahzad’s brutal interrogation, noting the death of notorious Al Qaeda-linked terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri in a drone strike just five days after Shahzad was reported killed:
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