News / Asia

Former US Intelligence Chiefs: Pakistan Must Stop Playing Both Sides

A resident walks past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos reportedly killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 5, 2011 (file photo)
A resident walks past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos reportedly killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 5, 2011 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been severely strained in recent months.  Two former top U.S. intelligence officials say the relationship has been sorely tested because Pakistan has been trying to have it both ways by cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts while maintaining ties with Taliban groups.

In separate interviews, ex-Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair both say Pakistan is trying to use Taliban groups to maintain influence in Afghanistan.

Hayden, who served as CIA chief from 2006 to 2009, says Pakistan's army and its primary intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), have been using the Haqqani network as leverage.

"It is clear, it is unarguable, that the Pakistani government, particularly the Pakistani security establishment - the army and the ISI - view the Haqqani network, that's the Taliban group in North Waziristan, [as] more of an - in their calculus they know it's an enemy of the United States, but in their calculus it's dominated by the fact that they believe that the Haqqani network is a friend of Pakistan.  And that may be the single most troubling aspect of the relationship: our divergence of views on that particular network," said Hayden.

The Haqqani network is viewed as perhaps the most lethal of the Afghan Taliban groups, crossing into Afghanistan from its safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas to mount attacks on NATO forces.

Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair says Pakistan is playing both sides in anticipation of the eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"They were hedging, frankly," said Blair.  "There were trying, and they still are, to take advantage of the help that they can get from the United States while still thinking, well, maybe the United States won't be here, maybe we have to look out for our own interests, and we need contact with many different groups, both countries and these various terrorist groups.  And in addition, they have a tradition of trying to play off these extremist groups against each another."  

Both men give Pakistan some praise for its counterterrorism cooperation.  Hayden says the country has been a "powerful" counterterrorism partner and that the United States has captured more senior al-Qaida personnel with Pakistani help than any other nation.

But the U.S. has been urging Pakistan to be more aggressive in moving against Taliban and al-Qaida safe havens.  Blair says Islamabad  has been reluctant to do so.

"Pakistan has suffered more terrorist attacks than any other country," Blair noted.  "But they still have this idea that they can maintain contact with lots of groups, choose their friends, work against their enemies.  And they just haven't made the strong decision that we need to clean up our own country, go against terrorist groups, whoever they are, whether they threaten Pakistan, India, the United States, Afghanistan, or anybody else."

From the Pakistani side, statements from officials attest to anger over U.S. drone strikes on terrorist targets in its tribal regions, the presence of U.S. intelligence operatives on its soil, and, most recently, the U.S. incursion into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. team clandestinely crossed into Pakistan in darkness on May 2 and found the al-Qaida leader hiding in a compound in the city of Abbottabad, not far from Pakistan's military officer academy.  The team killed bin Laden and made it back to Afghanistan unhindered by Pakistani forces.

Hayden, a retired Air Force general, says the bin Laden raid merely underscored a relationship between Washington and Islamabad that has been in a downward spiral for some time.

"I rather look upon it as - particularly the Abbottabad raid - it may have affected the relationship," said Hayden.  "But fundamentally, what it did to the public is to rip the curtain back from the relationship. That relationship has always been difficult. And the space, the space in which American and Pakistani interests - or perceived interests - are overlapping or identical has gotten quite small."

The fact that Pakistan was not informed of the raid in advance infuriated Pakistani officials.  But Blair, a retired Navy admiral, says the Obama administration made the right call to not inform the Pakistanis in advance because of the fear of leaks.

"Unfortunately, we find that when Pakistan gets a piece of information it evaluates whether it will use that piece of information for its own interests and not necessarily for our interests," Blair added.  "So I have no quarrel with the judgment that was made that the United States needed to take action itself this time.  And frankly, Pakistan needs to know that there are certain things that the United States is not going to fool around on, and this person who led this attack that killed 3,000 Americans.  And getting him was not something we were going to entrust to others.  We were going to do that one ourselves."

Analysts think that bin-Laden's replacement, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his core followers are hiding somewhere in Pakistan's remote tribal regions.  A recent analysis by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy says there is a far closer relationship between al-Qaida and the Haqqani network than has been commonly believed.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs