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"An institution full of intelligence but devoid of wisdom"
May 12, 2011 5:44 AM   Subscribe


 
God that is a really good question.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:47 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]






Surprise! They're actually on Rwanda's side.

I know, I didn't see that coming, either.
posted by Eideteker at 5:49 AM on May 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


Whose side is Pakistan's ISI really on?

My thought, without reading the article is "Duh, Pakistan's ISI side."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 AM on May 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


I suspect, from the article, that you are right, but they are way less good at it than they think.

This quote is rather puissant:
When you're Frankenstein, and you create a lot of baby monsters who are running round your ankles looking sort of cute, they eventually grow up to be recalcitrant adults, and you hope you can get them back into the fold so they become useful. But the Pakistanis can't control everything they create."

Thank you US official in Islamabad, I suspect that applies to some other people as well. Also good use of the correct distinction between Frankenstein (the creator) and monster (the monster).
posted by Artw at 5:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Basically the ISI has a history of starting and funding terrorist cells only to lose control over them and finding themselves in conflict with them. Seems like they have been going to and flunking the same classes as the US and GB.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:01 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The ISI created the Taliban as a way of wriggling out of some territorial disputes with Afghanistan by controlling it's ruling organization. It's fairly obvious they consider themselves above the rule of either the military or the civilian government, and are a significant sponsor of terrorism at home and in neighboring countries.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:10 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically the ISI has a history of starting and funding terrorist cells only to lose control over them and finding themselves in conflict with them.

It seems to be a question of short-sightedness and dealing with the current lesser of two evils. Paying Arabs and Afghans to fight the Soviet Union? Hey, that's better than all out war between the US and USSR. What's that, we're turning the ISI is major force in the reason? That's fine, it'll counter the USSR threat!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 AM on May 12, 2011


What's that, we're turning the ISI is major force in the reason?

"What's that, we're turning the Taliban into a major force in the region?"
posted by empath at 6:17 AM on May 12, 2011


Though, to be fair to the CIA, even in the Bad Old Days nobody suspected that the Contras were actually running them now and within and within dangerous proximity to the USA's nuclear stockpile.
posted by Artw at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2011


From the NYRB blog: Our Strange Dance with Pakistan.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:25 AM on May 12, 2011


"What's that, we're turning the Taliban into a major force in the region?"

"They're a small group of savages, huddling in caves, they're not a threat, amirite?!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:26 AM on May 12, 2011


They're not really on our side, and it's becoming clear that they're not on Pakistan's side either. It's almost like they're their own country, funded by Pakistan but not beholden to it. This might be mildly amusing were it not for their nuclear capability.
posted by tommasz at 6:41 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where's Mullah Omar?

The Pakistanis understand their role in the region very well and knowing that the US/NATO forces will leave Afghanistan eventually, it's imperative that they craft national security policies that will best benefit Pakistan's political model into the foreseeable future, and if that means playing every side of the game and hedging their bets in the hope of achieving some sort of positive outcome, then that's what they have to do.

To a degree, many nation states harbor, foster and bankroll groups who may or may not have aligned goals in a many areas but who's cooperation is beneficial to each party, with each one expected to be educated to the the nature of the relationship and being able to successfully extricate themselves from said relationship should policies change. Which is something I'm sure the US has considered doing at many points during our relationship with Pakistan but are unable to do so owing to the policies of its other neighbors.

In the end, we currently need Pakistan as an ally in the region, ISI, OBL and the pesky Taliban be damned.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:42 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


One concept that applies to this situation is "state capture" - pervasive and systemic corruption of state institutions. It's sort of midway between a functioning state and a failed state. In US foreign relations, Pakistan and Mexico are prime examples of state capture making it extremely difficult to argue that either of these governments is able to uphold international agreements.

The US incursion to kill bin Laden can be viewed as a public acknowledgment that the US believes that Pakistan's government is not able to honor its commitments when the stakes are high.

The crux of this conflict is the US wants to end the conflict in Afghanistan and neutralize Afghanistan. Pakistan's military (as distinct from the national government) wants to control Afghanistan as an ally against India. As the US priority of neutralizing Afghanistan and withdrawing its forces increases, the conflict with Pakistan could become more acute.

The past history of trusting Pakistan to control Afghanistan through the Taliban is not going to be repeated. Something is going to have to give and it's going to be Pakistan. One possible outcome will be a nuclear-armed failed state at war with India. That's something to be avoided.
posted by warbaby at 6:49 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: "Basically the ISI has a history of starting and funding terrorist cells only to lose control over them and finding themselves in conflict with them. Seems like they have been going to and flunking the same classes as the US and GB"


May I introduce you to the American military war schools which train over 100,000 foreign soldiers a year? Oh School of Americas, where the alumni song is the sound of knives being sharpened and silencers being screwed on.

We, the American tax-payer have paid to create thugs, then we pay to go kill those thugs; while we're training new thugs. It's a brilliant marketing plan. Continuously spawning enemies...it's only when we start camping corpses, like Iraq, that we start to see how the game mechanics actually work.

Pakistan has nukes. Pakistan has a military leadership full of people trained at places like SOA - WHINSEC. This makes Pakistan a serious threat to regional stability, which we've been trying to maintain with a delicate balance of bribes and probably assassinations. Also consider the long running state of almost-war between Pakistan and India, and the likelihood that any war there could go nuclear, and the juggling the US does to keep them apart.

Frankly, the rhetoric that we're seeing from the TeeVeeTalkingHeads has a very similar taste and feel as the rhetoric we heard leading up to Desert Storm (the first incursion into Iraq, Bush I, not Bush II). I'd be willing to stake money on the bet that we will land ground forces in Pakistan with the stated goal of "removing the nukes".
posted by dejah420 at 6:51 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


the breakdown of the spending of Pakistan's $3bn annual aid package, would be interesting if that information could ever get revealed. could the janitor wind up with a share?
posted by taxpayer at 6:53 AM on May 12, 2011


I'd be willing to stake money on the bet that we will land ground forces in Pakistan with the stated goal of "removing the nukes".

I'll take that bet. Not gonna happen, unless the Pakistani government or ISI ask for it and that's not gonna happen either

India probably likes this idea though. A nuclear free Pakistan probably sounds quite nice to them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


... it's becoming clear that they're not on Pakistan's side either. It's almost like they're their own country, funded by Pakistan but not beholden to it.

In this, I am unable to distinguish them from our own intelligence agency.
posted by Trurl at 7:02 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reagan legacy lingers in Afghanistan, Pakistan

"The state of Afghanistan has actually been destroyed, and the blame for it lies, to an indeterminate extent, on Reagan's thoughtless but enthusiastic support of the Afghan jihad throughout the 1980s. He fomented and abated the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan that is now threatening this country's stability."
posted by three blind mice at 7:07 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Previously on the US-Pakistan mess.

and more previously, a different facet.
posted by warbaby at 7:10 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whose side is Pakistan's ISI really on?

I'm a peace-loving, secular civilian who just wants to be left alone, so I'm damn sure they're not on mine.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:18 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


What should be of concern is ISI's unmitigated support for Lashker-e-Taiba.
According to Hindustan Times the ISI allowed LeT terrorists to attack India.
LeT are heavily fingered in the Mumbai attacks. The root cause of all this being Kashmir.
posted by adamvasco at 7:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The US incursion to kill bin Laden can be viewed as a public acknowledgment that the US believes that Pakistan's government is not able to honor its commitments when the stakes are high.

Or it can also be portrayed in the sense that the US took care of a problem too sensitive for the Pakistani's to fix themselves. That theory will be disproven if and when the US invades Pakistan in retaliation for harboring AQ and there's a worldwide consensus for regime change in a country that possesses WMD's. [Oh, the irony of watching Cheney et al propping up the Paks, as they referred to them, which not to derail but begs the question "Just what kind of formal diplomatic training and global understanding did anyone in the upper echelons of the Bush administration possess on the morning of 9/11?" Or we just taken for the proverbial ride?]

the American military war schools which train over 100,000 foreign soldiers a year

My apologies, but that article and accompanying commentary borders on hysterics.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2011


Whose side is Pakistan's ISI really on?

How many sides do we get to choose from?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:35 AM on May 12, 2011


Something is going to have to give and it's going to be Pakistan. One possible outcome will be a nuclear-armed failed state at war with India. That's something to be avoided.

Either way the place is circling the drain. We'll see some sort of complete collapse there in my lifetime, and a mad scramble for the nukes.

Excellent article and excellent discussion here, thanks all!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:46 AM on May 12, 2011


I want a nuke.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 AM on May 12, 2011


This one's for you Brandon.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:01 AM on May 12, 2011


Basically the ISI has a history of starting and funding terrorist cells only to lose control over them and finding themselves in conflict with them.

So they're like a miniature CIA?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:01 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, a darker CIA, with better food.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the informative article. I think my biggest takeaway is, since there is no semblance of cohesiveness in the ISI or in Pakistan itself (by "cohesiveness" I mean an authority that has enough power and instills enough loyalty to have a mission/ideology and carry it out), it makes it nigh on impossible to have a meaningful diplomatic relationship with them.
posted by mreleganza at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chatshow hosts are the secular mullahs of modern Pakistan: fist-banging populists who preach to the nation over supper, often through a rightwing lens.

Replace "Pakistan" with "the American heartland" and that sentence still works.

(Well, technically, it'd be talk radio hosts, but that's a minor difference.)
posted by acb at 9:50 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


When the Sovjet Union came down, everyone was going on and on about the nukes as well.
Is it absolutely certain that a Pakistan without billions of dollars of US military funding would be a threat?
(I'm all for civilian aid and trade, but it looks like the Pakistani government isn't really interested in that)
posted by mumimor at 9:56 AM on May 12, 2011


"Is it absolutely certain that a Pakistan without billions of dollars of US military funding would be a threat?"

USD 3b is literally 1% of the sales of the top 10 corporations in the world, a drop in the bucket. It's not the dollar amount: it's where those dollars wind up.
posted by digitalprimate at 10:45 AM on May 12, 2011


The terrible thing about it is, it does not have to be in Pakistan's interest to have the Taliban running Afghanistan. It only makes sense if they want to keep hostilities up with India. After three lost wars, thousands of lost lives and countless billions of dollars poured down the drain, you'd think they'd come up with a better plan.

But there's games within games. I'd be willing to bet they sold us Bin Laden in exchange for us leaving Afghanistan.
posted by atchafalaya at 10:48 AM on May 12, 2011


A matter of many little tactical decisions, made by all parties, without a hint of strategy, adding up to many complications many years later.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:51 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


wrt the "stealth" helicopter: without citing sources (sorry) more than one rumor suggests the helo is based heavily on the standard MH-60 blackhawk chassis that the 160th SOAR already flies. The stealth part is a bunch of composite bits, fancy angles, and a heavily redesigned tail section. IANA stealth helicopter expert but I sort of doubt that the Chinese would get anything world shakingly useful to their own stealth efforts. Beating Pakistan's radar may have had as much or more to do with flying very very low as anything cosmic about the helicopter itself. /speculation>

I also appreciate this is about allegiances and so forth but if it turns out ISI really did know OBL's location all these years, then sharing some thermite twisted stealth IP with the Chinese might be the least of our worries?
posted by lomcovak at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2011


From what I've read, the answer seems to be, nobody's but their own.
posted by Football Bat at 12:51 PM on May 12, 2011


Pakistan's militant milieu and a little more about LeT "The Army of the Pure".
However on 2nd May The streets of Karachi were deserted and five people were killed and over 20 vehicles and a bank were torched. Businesses were shut down and the city's streets were choked with panicked traffic as residents rushed home from work.
This chaos had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden.
posted by adamvasco at 1:49 PM on May 12, 2011


Replace "Pakistan" with "the American heartland" and that sentence still works.

(Well, technically, it'd be talk radio hosts, but that's a minor difference.)


Rush Limbaugh: Palm Beach County, Florida
Glenn Beck: New York, New York
Art Bell: Nye County, Nevada (currently Phillipines)
Alex Jones: Austin, Texas

Really... there isn't a lot of "talk radio" coming from the heartland. I don't think it's a minor difference. All these people I've listed have huge audiences in cities on both coasts. It's just more flyover-country othering which needs to be avoided by actual thinking persons.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I'd be willing to stake money on the bet that we will land ground forces in Pakistan with the stated goal of "removing the nukes"."

What? That's the whole point of developing nukes -- nobody can fuck with you once the genie is out of the bottle.

Hell, look at North Korea -- even the possibility of having nukes can make you invulnerable to the US.

Pakistan could never hit the US mainland, but they'd happily let a few fly towards India thus starting World War III.

Not gonna happen.
posted by bardic at 9:57 PM on May 12, 2011


I saw we take the nukes and launch ourself into orbit.
posted by clavdivs at 10:29 PM on May 12, 2011


it's the only way to be pretty sure
posted by clavdivs at 10:30 PM on May 12, 2011


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