In the Arena

Is Pakistan Our Ally?

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The sheer volume of news these past few weeks has been overwhelming–and, as Michael Crowley reports below and Bab Baer writes here–the situation in Pakistan, which I believe is the most dangerous in the world, has been deteriorating notably. The latest developments seem straight out of a spy novel. (In fact, David Ignatius’s forthcoming Bloodmoney, has some eery similarities.)

It seems there may be a covert war going on between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The key event appeared, at first, to be a road rage incident (of which there are zillions in Pakistan, believe me). A US “embassy employee” shot and killed two Pakistanis who were allegedly trying to rob him. Except the “employee”–Raymond Davis–turns out to have been a likely CIA employee and the “victims” may well have been ISI operatives. The rumor is that Davis was trying to penetrate Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group that pulled off the Mumbai massacre and is not-so-loosely affiliated with the ISI.

If these rumors are true–and they seem entirely plausible–the root cause of Pakistan’s move against the CIA may be anger that we’re getting close to the root of Pakistan’s operating hypocrisy: attempting to play our ally–and receiving $6 billion in aid–while funding the Afghan Taliban and supporting terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.

I don’t believe we should act peremptorily and pull the plug on our relationship with Pakistan. It still has 100 nukes. The threat of an Islamist coup is very real–and we should be doing everything we can to prevent that. But this latest move, against the CIA, really necessitates a tougher, more candid conversation with the Pakistani military about which side they’re going to be on. We’ve had a decade of evasion and prevarication since 9/11–and more than a few dead American soldiers as a result of the ISI’s support for the Taliban. Meanwhile, I certainly hope the CIA continues its efforts to penetrate all terrorist groups, even those run by our nominal allies.