Embassy Row: Spy master visits Washington

The head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency is due in Washington this week, as U.S.-Pakistani relations remain tense and just days after Pakistan’s ambassador here demanded an end to U.S. drone attacks against terrorist targets in her country.

Lt. Gen. Muhammad Zahirul Islam, director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, is scheduled to meet with CIA Director David H. Petraeus during his visit from Wednesday to Friday, the Pakistan army announced over the weekend.

Gen. Islam’s trip to Washington will be his first since he took office in March and the first by any high-ranking Pakistani military officer since May 2011, when Navy SEALS killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid in a Pakistani garrison town. Some Pakistani officials were outraged over the mission and denounced it as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty; however, others were embarrassed that the world’s most-wanted terrorist was hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad, home to the Pakistan Military Academy.

The raid led to the forced resignation of Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistan ambassador in Washington, over allegations that he and President Asif Ali Zardari feared a military coup in the raid’s aftermath and appealed to the Pentagon for help. Both men have denied any involvement in what has become a major scandal in Pakistan.

Pakistan also angered many members of Congress by convicting Dr. Shakil Afridi of treason and sentencing him to 33 years in prison for helping the CIA identify bin Laden through DNA samples. Some congressmen threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan. Washington funds almost half of Pakistan’s nearly $6 billion military budget.

Over the weekend, Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who replaced Mr. Haqqani, demanded an end to U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. She claimed the airstrikes against Afghan Taliban terrorists actually encourage jihadists to join the militants in their strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The drone raids “add to the pool of recruits we’re fighting against,” Mrs. Rehman said in a video debate from the Pakistan Embassy in Washington with Douglas E. Lute, a senior White House adviser who attended the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“The drone strikes now see diminishing returns,” she added. “We will be seeking an end to drone strikes, and there will be no compromise on that.”

FEARFUL IN ZIMBABWE

The U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe fears the southern African nation will erupt in violence before the next election, after three years of a tenuous coalition government between longtime autocratic President Robert Mugabe and democratic opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

“There are disturbing signs of potential violence. That could be problematic in an election environment,” Ambassador Charles Ray told the Voice of America last week.

Mr. Mugabe’s political party, the African National Union-Patriotic Front, has resorted frequently to violence in facing strong opposition.

Mr. Ray, also a retired Army officer, urged the Zimbabwe army to avoid political activism.

“While it does not mean that military people are not entitled to have political views, it means that military people … must de-link their political convictions from their current professional duties,” said Mr. Ray, who is leaving Zimbabwe after three years.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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