Air Cdre (Retd) Khalid Iqbal
President Karzai went ballistic as if WikiLeaks were a holy gospel in the context of its disclosures about Pakistan. One hopes that he believe with equal conviction about the authenticity of the entire report including what it says about him, his coterie, his American mentors and the Afghan war. It is refreshing that he got due snubbing form his American masters for jumping the gun.
David Cameron’s reaction was another example of how statesmen are ever ready to issue anti-Pakistan statements without verifying the credibility of the contents, especially when they are in India. Though ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The London Times’ had expressed doubts over the veracity of the reports concerning ISI since much of the stuff was provided by the Afghan intelligence, in his eagerness to sell some war machines, the Prime Minster opted to slip down to a shop keeper’s level. Since 9/11 Britain has all along been making a concerted effort of shifting the burden of his citizens’ acts of terrorism to Pakistan.
During cold war era, CIA and KGB were castigated for all the evils under the sky. Now ISI is the favourite whipping boy for every ill under the sun. Everyone who has a stake in maligning Pakistan castigates ISI regularly and religiously.
From Pakistani perspective, ISI shields the country from its enemies, it is the eyes and ears of national leadership, hence it constitutes the outer shield for national security. Our adversaries’ intent for carrying out perennial attacks on the ISI is understandable. That is to make the shield porous to weaken the overall protective mechanism. ISI has undergone massive reforms over the previous years, and its image has improved amongst the people of Pakistan. ISI personnel have paid with their blood, like every other component of the Pakistan military, in executing international campaign against extremism and terrorism.
Americans are known for using information leak as a policy tool, however this time it’s appears to be a battle of reverse frontiers. Afghan war lobbyists who don’t wish to see an end to conflict have intervened proactively to put the Obama administration on back foot.
As a matter of fact, out of 92000 documents, only around 180 vaguely point towards some support of ISI to Taliban in Afghanistan and that too unsubstantiated. Mainstream international media is of the view that most of these reports are from paid informers. Majority of the reports pertain to American forces and their brutal actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example a classified video was posted online under the title “Collateral Murder.” This video, taken from the gun-sight camera of a US Apache helicopter, depicts the July 2007 massacre of over a dozen civilians in Baghdad, including two journalists; chatter of the helicopter crew reveals the killing. It also shows an attack on a family that tried to aid the wounded, killing yet more unarmed civilians and wounding two young children.
Yet the entire media is entirely focusing on unverified and unsubstantiated reports pointing towards ISI. The ISI bashing spree is on. This is yet another assault on Pakistan’s credibility as a responsible entity among the comity of nations.
The Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, and paid informants are the main sources of information, which are trained and tasked to blame ISI. Afghan NDS was fathered and groomed by India to defame and marginalize Pakistan in support of India. Nowhere in the 92,000 documents is there any mention of India, good or bad; this exhibits a strategic silence on India.
Fictional narratives of Osama’s presence in Quetta since as late as 2006, and holding monthly meetings much like a corporate world CEO were never shared with Pakistan. Interestingly, leaks also point towards Osama’s visit to India in 2003 with the consent of US and Indian authorities. Osama seems to surpass the role of James Bond, he indeed deserves an Oscar!
Anti-Pakistan bias of the report can be gauged from the fact that identities of American personnel have been protected but those of ISI officials have been made public. Reports are based on framed ideas to create ruptures in Pak-US relations and de-synergise the war effort. These reports appear to have been prepared to create mistrust and suspicion among the coalition partners in Afghanistan, especially USA and Pakistan.
America and Pakistan have rightly rejected the contents of leaks. U S has shown its strong disapproval of such reports. The US has forcefully condemned the leaks as harmful to their national security interests. One is heartened by the comments of some ranking US lawmakers who have taken into account the tremendous sacrifices rendered by Pakistani security forces in dealing with the militants.
The ‘Afghan War Diary’ has created ripples. The US government has hurled the accusations of treason against the Wikileaker. Pentagon has launched a manhunt within the military and called in the FBI for possible prosecution of the actual whistleblower who supplied the evidence of US atrocities. Gates said that the “battlefield consequences” of the leak are “potentially severe and dangerous for our troops.” American government is in a damage reduction mode in an effort to limit the impact of the event on US relations with Pakistan.
Gradually, western governments are also joining the debate about the careless disclosure of the names of Afghan sources mentioned in the reports which is likely to puts them into serious danger. The Times of London published a story claiming that some of the leaked documents included the names and villages of Afghans who had provided intelligence to US occupation forces.
From war fighting point of view, the leaks bring to lights some of the facts like: use of portable, heat-seeking ground-to-air missiles(SAMs) by the Taliban, existence of a secret US commando units called ‘Task Force 373’ that eliminates insurgency leaders on the basis of a ‘capture-kill list’, the CIA paid the budget of Afghanistan’s NDS and ran it virtually like its extended arm, America’s enhanced use of drones and CIA-led paramilitary operations in Afghanistan and that the figures of composite Afghan civilian casualties is much higher than reported. According to some analyses, the documents released so far record the deaths of over 20,000 Afghans during the US-led war and occupation between 2004 and 2009. This is undoubtedly only a fraction of the actual total, as many known mass killings are not included in the material.
Understandably, the US frustration is mounting by each day. While maintaining an image of bravado, it is totally dependent on a nod from Taliban leaders like Haqqani, Mullah Omar and Hekmatyar for a face saving exit. Away from the eyes of western media it is at a critical stage of negotiating a politico-military settlement with the powers that be. This indeed is aimed at rupturing this process.
The WikiLeak group has held back another 15,000 documents, consisting largely of intelligence reports, saying it wants to review them for information that could potentially place individuals in Afghanistan at risk. Real test of American will be in its ability to prevent leakage to these held back reports.
Air Cdre Khalid is Masters in Political Science along with War and Strategic Studies. He has also done Air War Course,Fellow of Air War College. Instructor’s Course. Senior Command & Staff course. Combat Commander’s Course. He has been a Directing Staff at various institutions of Pakistan Air Force. Presently he is a visitng faculty at
- PAF air War College (Staff Wing &War Wing).
- School of Army Air Defence.
- Naval War College, Lahore.
- Quaid-i- Azam University (DSS Department).