Pakistan’s military and intelligence service took the extraordinary action of going to war against the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad this year, harassing employees, sabotaging contracts and denying the purchase of protective gear.
A secret cable sent by the embassy to Washington outlines a bizarre situation: Pakistani security forces, which receive billions of dollars in U.S. aid and who are supposed to be allies in a war against Muslim extremists, put the embassy under a sort of siege.
“The military and intelligence establishment has taken steps since spring 2009 to hamper the operations of the embassy,” the cable states. “Some of these problems have recently abated in response to our repeatedly raising them with the highest levels of the Pakistani government. However, we expect we will have to continue to push back against such impediments for the foreseeable future.”
The Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are two of the most powerful institutions in Pakistan. In the past, the military has ousted civilian rule. Elements in the ISI secretly aid the Taliban and al Qaeda — the very armies against which the U.S. is at war. The New York Times reported that the ISI helped militants bomb the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008.
The cable, publicized by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, lists some of Pakistan’s assaults on the embassy:
• Holding up the issuance of the visas needed for new embassy staff to enter Pakistan.
• Denying import permits for the embassy to buy armored vehicles to protect staff.
• “Sabotaging” a contract with the U.S. firm DynCorp to protect the U.S. personnel at the consulate in Peshawar, near the Afghan border.
• Delaying U.S. shipments of gear to help Pakistani law enforcement.
• “Harassing” embassy personnel “by stopping and detaining their vehicles.”
• Refusing to let the U.S. acquire land for embassy expansion.
The cable says the staff “repeatedly” has complained about harassment to “the highest levels of Pakistani government,” with little positive response.
Asked to comment on the cable, a State Department official told The Washington Times that the situation had improved recently.
“Without commenting on any cable, we have had many high-level discussions with the Pakistani government regarding visas for additional personnel for our missions in Pakistan, given expanding program and security requirements. There has been some improvement in recent months,” the official said.
The Pakistani military’s motive for hamstringing the U.S. Embassy is twofold. First, it thinks Washington wants to dismantle Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and thinks it has favored regional rival India when it approved a civilian nuclear-cooperation agreement. Second, it suspects the State Department is trying to determine Pakistan’s national security policies by dealing with civilian leaders only.
Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon assistant secretary who now directs the Center for Security Policy, said the cable represents more evidence of Pakistan undercutting the U.S. war on terrorism.
“It’s just the latest evidence that Pakistan has played a double game with the United States,” Mr. Gaffney said.
“It’s very willing to take on billions and billions and billions of dollars in aid for military programs and other assistance. It’s very willing to share in the technology we’re willing to transfer to them, particularly military intelligence capabilities,” he said. “But its reliability in defeating our enemies, particularly in Pakistan — to say nothing of across the border in Afghanistan — has always been a ‘sometimes’ thing.”
He said Pakistan putting U.S. diplomats at risk “is further grounds for very real concern about whether we can consider them a partner for our mutual security going forward.”
Since 2002, the U.S. has given Pakistan more than $18 billion in economic and military aid, according to the Congressional Research Service. And yet, the cable concludes, the U.S. has not been able to build up the Pakistani government into a strong partner that can effectively aid America in the war on terrorism.
“In the midst of this difficult security situation, Pakistan’s civilian government remains weak, ineffectual and corrupt,” the cable concludes.