By Sultan M. Hali
The relations between ISI and CIA have been fairly professional and close because both had their focus on combating common enemies. Since espionage, counter espionage and security activities are usually enshrouded in cloak and dagger stuff, at times misunderstandings may occur owing to inter service rivalry or encroachment in each other’s areas of operation. The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (more commonly known as Inter-Services Intelligence or simply by its initials ISI is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency. It is the largest of the five intelligence agencies of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Naval Intelligence (NI) and Air Intelligence (AI).
ISI was established as an independent intelligence agency in 1948 in order to strengthen the sharing of military intelligence between the three branches of Pakistan's armed forces in the aftermath of the Pakistan-India War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Pakistan Army, Air Force and Navy. It proved its mettle during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by organizing the mujahedin resistance.
The United States, on the other hand has carried out intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan, to become first the Coordinator of Information, and then, after the US entered World War II, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942. The OSS–the forerunner to the CIA–had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information. It was abolished after World War II, andthe Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers, was established under the National Security Act of 1947.
The CIA also engages in covert activities at the request of the President of the United States. Later CIA’s mandate was expanded to include: “sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures… subversion [and] assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation movements, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world".
The primary function of the CIA is to collect information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to advise public policymakers. The agency conducts covert operations and paramilitary actions, and exerts foreign political influence through its Special Activities Division.
Critics have pointed out that following the arrest of Raymond Davis, a key CIA operative from Lahore, after he had executed two Pakistanis in cold blood and caused the death of another motorcyclist, the relations between ISI and CIA are at their lowest ebb since 9/11. However neither is this observation based on facts nor is it a cause for alarm. It must be understood that Pakistan is doing all that is within it means and capacity to combat the menace of terrorism and its track record speaks for itself. Drone attacks are an autonomous CIA operation and Pakistan or ISI has never provided any targeting information for the conduct of drone strikes.
Pakistan is at present fully engaged in operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan Area and does not have the wherewithal or the capacity to undertake simultaneous operations in North Waziristan Area, which will only be tackled once gains in south have been consolidated.
Insinuations of ISI helping in relocating and protecting the Haqqanis are nothing but malicious propaganda. Such stories are apparently leaked to the media with the connivance of CIA and it is regrettable that CIA leadership on many occasions has failed to show respect to the relationship of the two agencies and has acted with arrogance towards ISI which has resulted in weakening the relationship on which it is entirely dependent. It is unfortunate that CIA leadership fails to understand that ISI works for and will continue to work for Pakistan’s national interest irrespective of the desires of CIA. CIA’s outdated approach towards the partnership through pressure is only counterproductive and will result in the isolation of CIA in an operational environment where its performance has been found wanting and has raised more questions that answers.
Involvement of CIA with Raymond Davis is beyond any shadow of doubt. It has been learnt through western and Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) sources that not only was Raymond Davis the acting CIA chief in Pakistan, but was part of the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region. SVR claims thatRaymond Davis supplied Al-Qaeda terrorists "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents", which are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West's hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse," Post incident conduct of CIA has virtually put the partnership with ISI into question. Irrespective of the commonality of objectives in this war on terror, it is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode.
It is imperative that since the ISI and CIA were trying to eliminate a common enemy, they rejoin their forces for combating the wily adversary. If a worthy alliance between the ISI and CIA is to be reestablished, the CIA will have to halt its covert relations to destabilize Pakistan and malign ISI. Relationships are built on trust and confidence. If the CIA wants to treat the ISI like it was treating the Soviet security agency KGB during the Cold War era, then it will have a difficult time. Although the ISI operates on a shoe-string budget as compared to the CIA, its motivated and highly professional operatives have proved through various operations that it is a force to reckon with. If the CIA has any doubts in this regard, it should only ask RAW. The onus of not stalling this relationship between the two agencies now squarely lies on CIA.
Group Captain S. M. Hali has served in the Flying Branch of Pakistan Air Force. During his service, he has held various command, staff and training appointments including Air and Naval Attaché at Embassy of Pakistan Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 1995. He is a graduate of PAF as well as Joint Services Staff College. After retirement from PAF, he completed his M Phil in Mass Communication and did broadcast journalism courses in USA. He has been the chief editor of a news wire service INP and established a private channel, a number of FM stations and APP's video news service. Besides Opinion Maker, he contributes regular articles to other national English and Urdu newspapers. He also hosts a weekly English TV talk show "Defence and Diplomacy" on PTV News.