Posts Tagged ‘ CIA ’

Afridi Sentence Pushes U.S.-Pakistan Relations From Bad to Worse

As Compiled by Araminta Wordsworth for The National Post

Full Comment’s Araminta Wordsworth brings you a daily round-up of quality punditry from across the globe. Today: One country’s freedom fighter is another nation’s traitor, from Benedict Arnold on down.

That’s the fate of Shakil Afridi. The Pakistani doctor is now behind bars, serving a 33-year sentence for treason and excoriated by fellow citizens.

His crime: helping the Americans track down the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

The physician organized a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad, a leafy town about an hour north of Islamabad where the al-Qaeda chief had been bunked down, apparently for years. Nurses went from house to house, taking DNA samples. Among the doors they knocked on was that of bin Laden.

The sentence has been greeted by outrage in Washington, where relations with Islamabad are going from bad to worse. Americans believe they should at least get co-operation for the $1-billion in aid they dish out to Pakistan each year.

Pakistanis meanwhile are affronted by perceived infringements of their sovereignty — chiefly the US Navy SEALs’ raid that killed bin Laden, which was carried out without notifying Islamabad; but also U.S. drone attacks, a friendly fire accident that killed about 30 government troops, and the CIA’s continuing clandestine operations.

Reporting from Islamabad for The Guardian, Jon Boone explains the Pakistani position.

For some Americans the Pakistani doctor who worked on a clandestine operation to track down one of the U.S.’s greatest enemies is a hero who should be given citizenship. But for Pakistan’s security agencies Dr. Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old physician who once led campaigns to vaccinate children against polio on the Afghan frontier, is a villain.

On Wednesday a representative of the country’s main spy agency said Afridi had got what he deserved when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for conspiring against the state, for his role in trying to help the CIA track Osama bin Laden to his hideout in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
American lawmakers quickly responded, hitting Pakistan in the pocketbook, writes David Rogers at Politico.

Angered by the prosecution of a Pakistani doctor for helping the CIA locate Osama bin Laden, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to cut another $33-million from an already much-reduced military aid package: $1-million for each of the physician’s 33-year prison sentence.
The 30-0 roll call followed a brief but often bitter discussion that underscored the deteriorating relationship between Washington and the Islamabad government, which remains an important ally in the war in Afghanistan.

“We need Pakistan. Pakistan needs us,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped to craft the amendment. “But we don’t need a Pakistan that is just double dealing.” Judson Berger at Fox News believes the Obama administration was caught flat-footed by Afridi’s conviction.

Former U.S. intelligence officers accused the Obama administration of dropping the ball … — with one openly challenging the State Department’s claim that it pressed his case “regularly” with Islamabad.

Officials are now raising a slew of concerns with how the U.S. government has handled the case.
Peter Brookes, a former analyst and adviser with several intelligence agencies who is now a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News on Thursday that the U.S. should have had a plan to get him out of Pakistan immediately following the raid.

But CNN’s national security contributor Fran Townsend told the program Starting Point Afridi probably thought he was “safe enough” in Pakistan and didn’t want to leave, especially without his extended family.

The United States is working to secure Afridi’s release, and Townsend confirms that [U.S. Secretary of ] State Hillary Clinton has intervened on the doctor’s behalf. Although she believes that Afridi may face some jail time, Townsend says that she ultimately thinks he’ll be released through negations between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“Pakistan will use it as a leverage point,” Townsend explains. “They’re going to want some concession, some commitment from the United States that there will be no use of Pakistani citizens inside their own territory by American intelligence.”

Her view of Afridi as a bargaining chip is confirmed by the BBC’s M. Ilyas Khan, who explains the significance of trying Afridi under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tribal law .

A trial by a regular court could have gone on for months, involving a proper indictment, witnesses and lawyers, all under the glare of television cameras.

But the political officer in Khyber has made sure that it stays secret and swift … Analysts say the Pakistani establishment has done this not only to defy the Americans but also to send a message to all Pakistani contacts of American diplomatic missions to desist from repeating Dr Afridi’s “mistake.”

They also point to an enduring feeling in Pakistan that at some point it has to mend fences with its Western allies, in which case the release of r Afridi could be one of the bargaining chips.

As and when that happens, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province can legally order his release.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- The jailing of Dr Afridi is not only another stain in the US-Pakistani relations, such as the hiding of OBL, but rather it is another carriage of injustice in a nation that is guilty of it daily with its population. From the lack of providing rights and freedoms to many of its citizens to the downright shameful behavior towards its religious minorities and women, it regularly is guilty of miscarriage of justice.

Please don’t even get us started on failing miserably to provide basics such as power, clean water, security from home grown terrorists or even a remotely functioning democracy. This action, as well as others in the last thirteen months illustrate, in our view, simply no reason other than, we are sad to say, that Pakistan has essentially told the Americans that we are not with you.

Ornate, but not lavish: Another bin Laden home located in Pakistan

By Kathy Gannon for The Associated Press

It’s an ornate but not lavish two-story house tucked away at the end of a mud clogged street. This is where Pakistan’s intelligence agency believes Osama bin Laden lived for nearly a year until he moved into the villa in which he was eventually killed.

The residence in the frontier town of Haripur was one of five safe houses used by the slain Al Qaeda leader while on the run in Pakistan according to information revealed by his youngest wife, who has been detained.

Retired Pakistani Brig. Shaukat Qadir, who has spent the last eight months tracking bin Laden’s movements, told The Associated Press that he was taken to the Haripur house last November by intelligence agents who located it from a description they got from Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada.

Al-Sada, a 30-year-old Yemeni, has been in Pakistani custody since May 2 when US Navy SEALs overran the Abbottabad compound, killing bin Laden and four other people inside. Since then, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, known as the ISI, has been trying to uncover the trail that brought him to Abbottabad villa in the summer of 2005.

The best information appears to have come from al-Sada, who was believed to be his favorite and who traveled with bin Laden since his escape from Afghanistan’s eastern Tora Bora mountain range in 2001.

Qadir, a 35-year army veteran who is now a security consultant, was given rare access to transcripts of Pakistani intelligence’s interrogation of al-Sada and access to other documents on bin-Laden’s movements. He provided the AP with details in a recent interview.

The details of bin Laden’s life as a fugitive — which were first published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn — raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt.

Yet a senior US official, who is familiar with the contents recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad house, said there was no evidence that Pakistani officials were aware of bin Laden’s presence. “There was no smoking gun. We didn’t find anything,” he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the contents of the Abbottabad house

According to the interrogation report, bin Laden lived in five safe houses and fathered four children — the two youngest born in a public hospital in Abbotabad. But investigators have only located the houses in Abbottabad and Haripur.

Al-Sada’s descriptions of the homes have been vague and the Haripur house was found only after a series of hits and misses.

She knew only that it was located on the edge of Haripur, it was two stories and it had a basement. It apparently was used by bin Laden while he waited for construction crews to finish his new home Abbottabad, a garrison town just 20 miles away.

Investigators scoured the area looking for properties until they found the Haripur house in Naseem Town, a chaotic suburb where relatively affluent houses bump up against sun-baked mud huts that belong to nomadic Afghans.

Like the CIA, the Pakistani agency also tracked the movements of bin Laden’s Pakistani courier who used the pseudonym Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and his brother. The two were ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan. They were bin Laden’s front men.

The ISI discovered that the Haripur house, like the land on which bin Laden’s Abbottabad villa was built, was rented by two Pashtun brothers claiming to be from Charsadda, a Pashtun dominated town about 80 miles away.

The AP located the Haripur house that Qadir said ISI agents had taken him to last November and found the real estate broker, Pir Mohammed, who rented the four-bedroom house to the two brothers, Salim and Javed Khan from Charsadda, for $150 a month.

At the time Pir Mohammed ran a small real estate firm called Mashallah. He said his meeting with the brothers was random.

“They must have seen my sign and come in,” Mohammed said, adding that he had met the brothers only three times — when they signed the contract, when they moved into the house, and when they moved out 11 months later.

Two months ago several ISI agents took all the records of the house and its tenants since its construction in 2000, said Qasi Anis Rahman, the brother of the widow who owns the house.

“All they said was that it was for ‘security purposes,'” said Rahman.

Al-Sada is currently in Pakistani custody, along with bin Laden’s two other wives and several children. They were arrested after the raid. The US Navy SEALs shot al-Sada in the leg during the operation.

Mohammed Amir Khalil, a lawyer for the three widows, said the women would be formally charged for illegally staying in Pakistan on April 2. That charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Pakistani Doctor Helped U.S. Track Bin Laden, Panetta says

By Saeed Shah for McClatchy Newspapers

A senior American official has for the first time admitted that a Pakistani doctor played a key role in tracking Osama bin Laden to his hideout in northern Pakistan, and called for his release.

The comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were the first public confirmation of a part of the bin Laden operation reported by McClatchy Newspapers in July, about how the CIA used Shakil Afridi to try to establish whether the al-Qaida leader was really living in a large house in Abbottabad, northern Pakistan.

This morning in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Inquiry Commission on the Abbottabad Operation issued an order to charge Afridi with treason, local media reported. The timing makes it appear that Pakistan is rebuking Panetta for his public acknowledgement of Afridi’s role. Afridi has been in Pakistani custody since the country’s own spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), learned of the secret task performed by the doctor, who set up a fake vaccination program in Abbottabad to get DNA samples from those staying at the compound.

The CIA was never certain that bin Laden was present in the house. Afridi worked for the American intelligence agency in the weeks leading up to the Navy SEALs raid on May 2, setting up an elaborate scheme that was supposedly going house to house to vaccinate residents in Abbottabad.

Panetta told CBS’ “60 Minutes” “I am very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual (Afridi). This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regard to this operation.” Panetta also voiced his belief that elements within Pakistan must have known that bin Laden, or at least someone significant, was present inside the compound. The interview was posted on the “60 Minutes” website. However, it was not included in the segment telecast on Sunday night. The McClatchy investigation discovered that Afridi was arrested by the ISI in late May and was tortured. It is believed that he remains in the custody of the intelligence agency, which is part of the military.

The whereabouts of Afridi’s family, including his American wife of Pakistani origin, is still unknown. The fate of the doctor has become another source of tension between Islamabad and Washington, with American officials pressing Pakistan to free him so he and his family can be resettled in the United States.

The military, which will decide what happens to Afridi, is furious that the CIA recruited Pakistani citizens for clandestine operations inside the country. Privately, officials point out that it is a crime to work for a foreign intelligence agency.
The doctor has turned into a bargaining chip in the failing U.S-Pakistan alliance. It is thought that Pakistan will let him go after public attention on the case wanes and it gets something in return from the U.S. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistan,” Panetta told “60 Minutes.”

“Pakistan and the U.S. have a common cause here against terrorism,” he said. “And for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think it is a real mistake on their part.”
Panetta, who was in charge of the CIA at the time of the bin Laden raid, also said that while there was no evidence of Pakistani complicity in keeping the al-Qaida chief, suspicions must have been raised about his hideout. “I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound. Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls. … It was the largest compound in the area.

“So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?'” Panetta said.
But asked whether he knew for sure that Pakistan was aware of bin Laden’s presence, he said: “I don’t have any hard evidence, so I can’t say it for a fact.”

CIA Contractor Charged in Pakistan Deaths Arrested in Colorado

By Jim Spellman for CNN

Raymond Davis, who was charged with killing two men in Pakistan as a CIA contractor but was later released, was arrested Saturday after a fistfight at a shopping center in Colorado, authorities said.

Davis was charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct after allegedly getting into a fight over a parking space at a suburban Denver mall, according to Lt. Glenn Peitzmeier of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident at the Highlands Ranch Town Center began as an argument between 37-year-old Davis and 50-year-old Jeff Maes and then turned physical, Peitzmeier said. Davis was released after posting $1,750 bond, Peitzmeier said.

Davis’ wife, Rebecca, declined a CNN request for comment. Davis was charged with killing two men in Lahore, Pakistan, in January. He was released in March after compensation was paid to their families.

U.S. officials originally said Davis was a diplomat and tried to claim diplomatic immunity but then revealed that he was a CIA contractor.
Davis said he killed the two men in self-defense, though Lahore authorities called the case “clear-cut murder.”

We Are Not All CIA Agents

By Michael Kugelman for The Express Tribune

Wondering about America’s latest reason for being unhappy with Pakistan? Look no further than the case of aid worker Warren Weinstein, the US citizen recently abducted from his residence in Lahore. I am not suggesting that Americans resent the fact that Pakistanis kidnapped Weinstein. Many of us (though by no means all of us) understand that abductions of Americans in Pakistan are very rare and realise that those Pakistanis who relish the thought of kidnapping Americans constitute a small percentage of the population.

What I am suggesting is that Americans are upset with what Pakistanis are saying about Weinstein. It is striking how quickly some Pakistanis have proclaimed that Weinstein is a CIA agent (and to be fair, a number of Americans are making the same assumption). An American in Pakistan doing aid work in the tribal areas? Wearing the native dress? And spending so much time in the country? Clearly the hallmark traits of a spy, they conclude. Never mind his advanced age (how many near-septuagenarian spooks are prowling around Pakistan?), or the fact that he was living quite conspicuously in a large home in an affluent area of Lahore. Also striking is who is making these accusations. One expects such views from the likes of Shireen Mazari, who famously had an altercation with a western-looking man in a restaurant when he inadvertently bumped into her chair, referring to him as a “bloody CIA agent”. Or from those impressionable masses who fall prey to the anti-American narratives propagated by school textbooks, mullahs and the media.

However, it is quite another matter to see readers of this newspaper — who, by virtue of their English-language aptitude and willingness to read The Express Tribune, are not narrow-minded ideologues — posting good-riddance comments about Weinstein and his presumed CIA bonafides.
Yes, Americans in Pakistan have been and are connected to security contractor firms and intelligence agencies. Yes, many of the alleged conspiracy theories about CIA agents crawling around the country have been proven true; Washington has sometimes emerged with egg on its face after prevaricating about the intelligence affiliations of its citizens stationed in Pakistan.

And, yes, ‘development work’ can be code for spy craft. Nonetheless, to reflexively assume that any American in the country is tied to the CIA is not only unfair, but also insulting — because it sweepingly dismisses the highly beneficial work done by many Americans in the country, such as, presumably, Weinstein himself. Just as there are Pakistanis who admire America (albeit not necessarily its foreign policies), there are Americans — with and without government affiliations — who hold Pakistan in high esteem and who dedicate their lives to making positive contributions there. Some may single out school-building superstar Greg Mortenson; I would cite the likes of the somewhat lesser-known (and therefore more typical) case of Todd Shea — a musician by training who, moved by televised images of suffering in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake, travelled to Pakistan to provide relief aid. Shea has been there ever since; he now runs a hospital in a remote part of Kashmir.

There are other Todd Sheas in Pakistan. They may not want their stories publicised, but they are there, serving as healthcare trainers, conducting research on drone strikes’ impacts on civilians and helping promote women’s rights. Some work for NGOs, others represent non-intelligence agencies of the US government and others still — perhaps the most honourable of them all — act as volunteers and represent only themselves.

Pakistanis often lament, and rightly so, how so many of their most humanitarian and peace-loving citizens — from Abdul Sattar Edhi to Shehzad Roy — are relative unknowns in the US. Americans are equally justified for being indignant about the lack of recognition accorded to the selfless work of their countrymen in Pakistan — work that has little to do with cloaks and daggers and much more to do with benevolence and social upliftment.

Musharraf Moves to Mend US-Pakistan Relations

By Lydia Mulvany for The Mimami Hearld

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Thursday that his country wasn’t complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden but was “extremely negligent” for not knowing that the al-Qaida leader was living a 75-mile drive from the Pakistani capital.

Speaking in Washington, the former military dictator sought to heal a U.S.-Pakistani relationship that’s become badly strained since the American raid May 2 that killed bin Laden, saying mutual interests in the global war on terrorism bound the countries and that blaming each other was counterproductive.

“The United States and Pakistan must restore trust,” Musharraf told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Confrontation would be most unwise.”

The bin Laden incident pushed U.S.-Pakistani relations to their lowest point in years. American officials weren’t happy when, after a decade-long hunt, they found al-Qaida’s leader living in a garrison town so close to Islamabad. Pakistani officials were outraged that they weren’t told about the unilateral raid beforehand.

Since the raid, Pakistan has restricted visas for American officials and expelled military trainers. The U.S. has cut off $800 million, about one-third of its aid to Pakistan’s military. The U.S. has long complained of ties between Pakistan’s military and insurgent groups that have attacked American-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

But Musharraf said that if Pakistani intelligence had colluded with bin Laden, it also would have known that the CIA was operating a safe house nearby and whisked the al-Qaida leader away. He described bin Laden’s high-walled compound in the town of Abbottabad as a normal dwelling that wouldn’t have raised suspicion.

He also claimed that Abbottabad – which is home to a major military college that’s been described as Pakistan’s West Point, as well as other military installations – wasn’t a garrison town but a touristy resort area with many colleges.

The recent raid was a “violation of sovereignty,” Musharraf said, echoing a widespread Pakistani complaint. He added that Pakistani antipathy toward the U.S. also stems from the American campaign of drone strikes on militant targets, which reportedly have caused civilian casualties, as well as lingering bitterness over U.S. sanctions for developing nuclear weapons in the 1990s.

The way forward for Pakistan, Musharraf said, is to show that it isn’t complicit with terrorists and to deal with domestic extremism. It also needs to establish an honest, stable government in the 2013 elections, said the former leader, who’s expected to mount a run for president.

Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and resigned in 2008, embodied the frustration and contradictions of American policy toward Pakistan.

Mark Quarterman, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington research center, said that many wanted to see Musharraf as a modern, progressive leader: He wasn’t an extremist, his wife and daughter didn’t wear veils and the family even had a dog, an animal many Muslims view as impure. Ultimately, however, Musharraf’s rule was a military dictatorship and, according to many experts, he didn’t do enough to rein in Taliban militants who were operating in remote corners of Pakistan.

Pakistan Aid Depends on Security Cooperation, Panetta Says

By Roxana Tiron for Bloomberg News

An accelerated counterterrorism campaign in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is “vital” for the U.S. to defeat al-Qaeda there and prevent its return, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta, who is nominated to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Any decisions on future U.S. security assistance “will be informed” by Pakistan’s response to the “concrete steps” the U.S. has set for counterterrorism cooperation, Panetta said in a 79-page set of answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in advance of his confirmation hearing scheduled for June 9.

Last month, the U.S. found and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was hiding in a compound in the city of Abbottabad, 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital, Islamabad.

The U.S. “train-advise-equip” programs with Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have been important in eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and disrupting the al-Qaeda network, Panetta said.

“It is vital, however, that Pakistan live up to its end of the bargain, cooperating more fully in counterterrorism matters and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups,” he said.

Pakistan continues to lack the necessary military and civilian capacities to “hold” and “build” in areas along the border region that have been cleared of al-Qaeda forces, Panetta said.

Seeking Results

“If confirmed, I will work the Congress to ensure that the support we provide is yielding the results we seek,” he said.
Since 2009, Pakistan has undertaken counterinsurgency operations against extremist organizations in the northwest, including in Swat, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur “with varying levels of success,” said Panetta.

“Pakistan’s level of commitment is reflected in the enormous casualties it has suffered as a result of terrorism in the last few years, including more than 11,000 military personnel killed or wounded in action and more than 30,000 civilian causalities in recent years,” he said.
Panetta said that while, bin Laden’s death is a “significant blow” to al-Qaeda, the core group and its offshoots “remain a vary dangerous threat” in the region and to the U.S. homeland.

“There is a risk that decentralized affiliates may pose an increased threat to the United States,” he said
Panetta said that President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy is “sound” and the U.S. has made “the progress necessary to give the President meaningful options for his decision,” on how many U.S. forces to withdraw beginning in July.
The military gains in Afghanistan are “helping to create the conditions for reconciliation,” between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban insurgents.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers