COMMENT: WikiLeaks fiasco —Ali K Chishti - Thursday, July 29, 2010

Source :

Although the WikiLeaks fiasco is embarrassing for both the US and Pakistan, as it reflects the mistrust between the two closest allies in the war on terror, without each other’s support they cannot win the war on terror

WikiLeaks, a Swedish whistleblower project, consists of activist journalists who have previously leaked videos and articles embarrassing the US government. Only a couple of days back, it leaked more than 90,000 top secret documents of the US military, consisting of cables, internal memos and e-mails sent out to various Department of Defence (DoD) officials related to Afghanistan, revealing: i) how the coalition forces have killed thousands of civilians in unreported incidents; ii) Taliban attacks have soared; and iii) how NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

While President Obama’s national security adviser, General James L Jones deplored the disclosure of classified information on the plea 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 and 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 New York Times puts it, “The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skulduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Islamabad as an ally by American officials looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens.” Another document on WikiLeaks points towards how the ISI trains group of insurgents and has a pool of suicide bombers, who are used to destabilise peace in Afghanistan. One such report from December 18, 2006 describes how suicide bombers are recruited and trained in Pakistan and sent out on missions where the Afghan National Police (ANP) helps them to carry out their missions.

The ISI and Pakistan would seriously have to do a lot of PR to get out of this latest scandal. The “word ISI in 90,000 document leaks appeared more than 50,000 times,” said a source from WikiLeaks who himself admitted that “the American soldiers and CIA seem to be ISI-phobic”. Accordingly to WikiLeaks: “We are not helping make an opinion about anyone — we are just interested in transparency.”

In what is the most direct allegation on the Pakistani top spy agency, the ISI, WikiLeaks gives an insider’s view of how top American defence officials view the ISI’s role, “which is a rigidly hierarchical organisation that has little tolerance for ‘rogue’ activity”. It is worth mentioning that, according to WikiLeaks, ISI’s S Wing, which deals with external operations, had been given “broad autonomy”. In another disturbing account, CIA’s deputy director Stephen R Kappes confronts Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan a deadly suicide bombing on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008. Yet another leak alleges that, in August 2008, a presumably “gone rogue” ISI colonel plotted to assassinate President Hamid Karzai, news which could potentially disturb Pakistan’s newfound relationship with Hamid Karzai.

More documents released by WikiLeaks suspect how PAKMIL, a word used to describe the Pakistan Army, helps the Taliban to destabilise ISAF/NATO in Afghanistan, describing the networks of Pakistani assets and collaborators that run from Pakistan’s tribal belt along the Afghan border through southern Afghanistan all the way to the capital Kabul.

And, finally, damaging details have come to the surface about Pakistan’s former top spymaster and general, Hamid Gul, who after almost two decades of retirement from the ISI, “does not seem to be out of work”. WikiLeaks documents indicate in detail that Hamid Gul still works tirelessly with the Haqqanis and Hekmatyar to destabilise Afghanistan. In some instances, the leaks give an impression that Hamid Gul acts as a ‘front man’ and a ‘proxy’ for the ISI. One report gives details of Hamid Gul meeting with the Afghan Taliban and “three older Arab men” to plan and avenge the death of Zamarai, an important al Qaeda leader, who was killed by a drone attack. According to another report, General Gul urged the 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”. General Hamid Gul, as usual, dismissed the reports, terming them as “another conspiracy” and “absolute nonsense”. A source from an intelligence agency confirmed that Hamid Gul had “always been in radars” and is known to make “random trips and communications to the tribal areas”.

To conclude, if WikiLeaks is to be believed (they have a reputation of being reliable), Pakistan has a lot of cleaning up to do. The timeframe of over 90,000 documents leaked 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 Dialogue in which General Kayani himself gave a long presentation winning many admirers within the US administration. Although the WikiLeaks fiasco is embarrassing for both the US and Pakistan, as it reflects the mistrust between the two closest allies in the war on terror, without each other’s support they cannot win the war on terror. Where the Pakistan military needs to come clean on folks like Hamid Gul, the US must realise that Pakistan has a legitimate concern in Afghanistan and try to stop such embarrassing leaks.

The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment