Musharraf and the US Move To Disband the ISI, Purge the Military and Eliminate Pakistan As A Strategic Power
According to intelligence sources close to FP, following on from a secret deal with India over Kashmir and removal of the scientists behind Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Musharraf has moved onto the next stage of implementing the US plan for the region. That of strengthening the US control over Afghanistan, disbanding Pakistan’s premiere intelligence agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and purging the military of anti-US hardliners. By taking such actions under the cover of the war against terrorism, Musharraf will complete the process of dismantling Pakistan as a regional strategic power.
On January 28, 2004, the US newspaper, The Chicago Tribune, was utilised by the US State Department to publish a politically sensitive article aimed at inciting a response from the anti-US hardliners in the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies.
The article, which quotes unnamed military sources, claimed that the Bush administration had laid down plans for a military operation against Al-Qaeeda in Afghanistan, which would include US action inside Pakistan. The article was then instantaneously covered by many publications in the US media and later picked up by the world media.
The attempt to incite was clear from the article’s claim that Musharraf would be complicit with the US in executing the operation. The article quotes unnamed military sources as saying;
“We are told, we are going into Pakistan with Musharraf’s help”.
After recent assassination attempts on Musharraf, such a leak by a military official is highly political considering that the US regards the survival of Musharraf as vital to her plans in the region as well as the fact that such sensitive disclosures would jeopardise any US operation. The article follows a build up of statements by Musharraf after the assassination attempt on his life. The statements have been designed to focus attention on Al-Qaeeda as the hand behind his assassinations and the resurgence of the Taliban as the cause of instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s northern and border areas. In an interview to the Washington Post on the 25th Jan. 2004, Musharraf said:
“The start of the planning for the assassination coincided with that(threat by Al-Qaeeda leader Ayman Al- Zwahiri)”
By focussing on Al—Qaeeda and the Taliban, Musharraf has provided the US with the necessary reasons to maintain its presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the recent Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Musharraf called for an increase in the US-NATO inspired ISAF force and even provided the US with the excuses to deploy its forces on Pakistan’s border when he said :
“I think he (Osama Bin Laden) might be on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving him the opportunity of crossing and recrossing”.
The different unnamed military sources used by the Chicago Tribune clearly indicate that the leaks were not coincidental. Rather the leaks were deliberate as part of a Musharraf-US trap to purge those elements in the ISI and the military opposed to what is considered by them as Musharraf’s treacherous path to weaken Pakistan and build India as the pr-eminent power in the region.
The US generally considers the anti-US and hard-line elements in the ISI as the biggest threat to its regional plan for India, Afghanistan and China. The US media and State Department officials have been utilised quite extensively in order to highlight the role of the ISI as that of supporting terrorism against US troops and Karzai in Afghanistan and of inhibiting its action in Pakistan’s tribal belt through its alleged backing of a resurgent Taliban and Al-Qaeeda.
On the 1st of October, 2003, Richard Armitage, US deputy Secretary of State accused some in the Pakistani security establishment of being less than enthusiastic about working with the United States in its plan towards the region when he said;
“I personally believe President Musharraf is intent on being supportive of President Karzai. The ability of the government of Pakistan, particularly the military of Pakistan, to operate in the federally administered tribal areas is significantly inhibited…. I personally believe that President Musharraf is genuine when he assists us in the tribal areas and he has from inside of the border but I do not think that affection for working with us extend up and down the rank and file of the Pakistani security community.”
As indicated by Armitage’s comments, the US has been careful to distance Musharraf from the anti-US elements in the ISI to the extent of highlighting a lack of control by Musharraf over it. According to an editorial in the Washington Times, a publication close to the US State Department on the 18th of November, 2003;
“Gen Musharraf's leadership is also limited. Pakistan's military and intelligence community see Afghanistan not as a neighbour and partner, but rather as a place where Pakistan can broaden its strategic depth. This faction is keen on competing against Indian influence in Afghanistan and resists cracking down on former Taliban officials, in the belief they can someday rise to power and re-establish Pakistan's sway over Afghanistan."
The US estimates that by eliminating the ISI , the Taliban resistance is likely to collapse as is the will of the dominant anti-US Pashtuns. Afghanistan is strategically key to realising the US oil pipe dream from Central Asia to India and key for India’s vital growing energy needs and trade to Central Asia. India’s access to the Caspian oil reserves is also vital for the US plan to build India as the regional power to counter China as in the event of conflict, India will need to guarantee energy flows.
It has been an open secret that the Taliban have been operating freely from the border regions and tribal areas. Musharraf has taken no steps to curb this. Rather, Musharraf has lured the ISI into a US trap. Musharraf is preparing for the ISI what he prepared for the fighters in Kashmir. In the case of the Kashmiri fighters, Musharraf used the Indian authorities to eliminate the Kashmiri fighters through the transfer of intelligence information on locations and bases. In the case of the ISI, Musharraf will provide the US with the necessary information and excuses to deploy within Pakistan. The US will utilise the notion of Musharraf’s limitations as a basis for US operations in Pakistan and the border regions in order to eliminate the ISI.
With the ISI Afghan desk already closed down, Musharraf will move to disband the remaining ISI infrastructure. FP intelligence reports have already confirmed that days after Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan in January 2004, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Nancy Powell, spoke to General Parvez Musharraf about disbanding the Inter-Services Intelligence. According to the intelligence reports, the US wants the ISI to be broken up and its tasks assigned to other existing intelligence agencies, and in case that is politically controversial, to build accountability into it by special monitoring of the DG ISI’s office, and parcelling off policy planning to outside think-tanks.
The dismemberment of Pakistan’s premiere intelligence agency is unlikely to be complete without a purge of hard-line sympathisers from the military ranks. The annual reshuffle on March 2004 is the likeliest timing for this. Alternatively, a trap may be set within the military hierarchy, which will invite a coup against Musharraf from loyalists pretending to be hardliners opposed to Musharraf’s pro-US policies. In this way the US will strengthen in a comprehensive manner its control over Pakistan’s security set-up.
Former Pakistani intelligence and military personnel being recruited by institutions close to the State Department have also increased US intelligence influence. The Washington Post has recruited Kamran Khan, former Pakistani Military Intelligence turned journalist, as the “insider” who has already aided the Post in maligning Pakistan’s nuclear scientists and is likely to aid US intelligence agencies in continuing to link the ISI with terrorism. Pakistan’s secrets are not difficult to come by as the US already has a former Pakistani Chief of army staff, Jehangir Karamat working with a US think tank, the Brookings Institute.
The dismemberment of the ISI will put the final nail in the coffin as regards Pakistan’s strategic influence. The Pashtuns in Afghanistan will be forced to accept the writ of the pro-Indian Northern Alliance and the Kashmiri’s will be forced to accept the solution of Kashmir on India’s terms.
With US Presidential elections due in 2004, President Bush will be looking for successes in its policy towards the region. Musharraf will no doubt be called upon to aid the President.
Copyright Forecast Pakistan 2004