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John Kerry at Nexus of Pakistan Relations, Afghanistan Strategy

5:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

With US-Pakistan relations strained over the US mission that killed Osama Bin Laden and the push by many in Congress to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) finds himself at the nexus of these two vital issues. Recall that Kerry was one of a number of US elected officials who visited Pakistan during the Raymond Davis saga, claiming that he felt his visit would achieve Davis’ release “within the next few days” after his visit. Davis was eventually released four weeks after the Kerry trip. Today, we see Kerry featured prominently in the news for his plan to visit Pakistan again in an attempt to repair damage to US-Pakistan relations arising from the Bin Laden mission and for his statements suggesting that a new Afghanistan strategy is now needed.

Reuters describes the Kerry’s upcoming visit to Pakistan:

Senator John Kerry will travel to Pakistan in coming days to put relations “on the right track” after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a surprise Navy SEALs raid, but he is likely to face fury from the army over what it sees as a breach of trust.

Kerry, a Democrat who is close to the Obama administration, said he expected to see “all the main players” in Pakistan to discuss strains in bilateral ties following the May 2 operation that killed the al Qaeda leader in his Pakistani hideout.

“A number of people suggested it would be good to get a dialogue going about the aftermath and how we get on the right track,” Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters in Washington.

At the same time he is playing a leading role (and rightly so, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) in repairing the relationship with Pakistan, Kerry is also the first politician quoted in Wednesday’s Washington Post article on calls to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan:

The death of Osama bin Laden and growing pressure from Congress to shrink the U.S. footprint and expense in Afghanistan have given new impetus to those within the Obama administration who favor a swift reduction of U.S. forces, according to senior administration officials and leading lawmakers.

/snip/

Current expenditures of $10 billion a month are “fundamentally unsustainable” and the administration urgently needs to clarify both its mission and exit plan, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Tuesday.

Even though Kerry is described in the article as often a leading indicator for thinking from the Obama administration, it is clear that the administration has not reached consensus on a new Afghanistan strategy, as the article quotes an unnamed senior administration official that “there will be no re-litigation” of the strategy.

In my opinion, the most important point to make it into the Post story is that, at long last, there is finally a piercing of Petraeus’ training myth. The article notes that “many” now question the concept of training Afghan forces to take over when we leave and Kerry confronts the problem head-on:

Many have questioned the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart.“Despite our best efforts, there are challenges — corruption, predatory behavior, incompetence — still evident within the Afghan army and police,” Kerry said. “On top of these problems, there is the question, ultimately, of money, resources.”

The fact that Kerry now sees that training so many Afghan troops is not feasible and will waste huge amounts of money is a huge development to make it into the pages of the Washington Post. Watch for the Petraeus propaganda machine to push back on this very hard, making over-inflated claims of progress that the press will accept at face value rather than subjecting to fact-checking.  Petraeus owes much of the rapid rise in his career trajectory to his “Groundhog Day”-like reliance on always making strong progress toward troop training whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan.  And, just as in the movie, we always seem to be starting fresh on those training efforts.  Why it has taken so long for Washington to figure out that we are stuck in an endless loop of re-starting training is beyond me. Perhaps Senator Kerry can help us to break out of the loop.

On Second Day After Bin Laden’s Death, No Massive Demonstrations or Reprisals in Pakistan

4:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

White House photo by Pete Souza of President Obama making phone calls to leaders, most likely including Pakistani President Zardari, before making his public statement Sunday night.

Although there were a few small demonstrations on Monday, Tuesday appears to be quiet in Pakistan on the second day after the US killed Osama Bin Laden just outside Islamabad. Warnings to be wary of reprisals have been voiced by both the US and Pakistani governments and two US consulates in Pakistan have been closed as a precaution.

Writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Pakistani Presdient Asif Ali Zardari pointed out that Pakistan has suffered greatly (and he personally) at the hands of al Qaeda:

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life.

Zardari did a gentle push-back on Pakistan’s embarrassment (“He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be”) about their apparent lack of action against al Qaeda in general and admitted that Pakistan was not included in the planning or execution of Sunday night’s Bin Laden mission:

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

So, while the pseudonym of the carrier was obtained at Guantanamo (but not through torture), Zardari is claiming a major role for Pakistan in helping to put a real name together with the operational one which is indeed a key step in the sequence of events leading to Bin Laden’s death.

A Reuters article attributes at least a portion of the calm in Pakistan to a sense of embarrassment over the harboring of Bin Laden:

There were no protests and no extra security in Pakistan on Tuesday, a day after the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, just a sense of embarrassment and indifference that the al Qaeda leader had managed to lie low for years in a Pakistan garrison town.

“The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world’s most-wanted man here is shocking,” The News said in an editorial, reflecting the general tone in the media, where some commentators predicted that Washington would take action to show its displeasure with Islamabad.

After noting that a demonstration is expected in Karachi, the article then states that many Pakistanis are indifferent to Bin Laden:

Still, many ordinary Pakistanis said bin Laden’s killing was of no consequence to them. “It doesn’t make any difference to my life whether he is killed or not,” said Zain Khan, a laborer in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Despite some indifference, though, warnings of potential reprisals have been made:

Intelligence agencies have warned that Pakistan may face a sharp rise in terrorism cases in the wake of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The National Crisis Management Cell of the interior ministry issued the warning to the police and law enforcement agencies after receiving credible intelligence that militants may plan ‘revenge’ attacks in Pakistan, targeting US diplomatic missions and Americans in the country, in addition to important civilian and military government installations.

These warnings have led to the closure of US consulates in Lahore and Peshawar:

The United States closed two of its consulates in Pakistan to the public on Tuesday until further notice, a day after Osama bin Laden was killed near the capital Islamabad.

The US embassy in Islamabad and a third consulate in Karachi had earlier also been closed to the general public for routine business, but a decision was taken Tuesday for them to re-open as normal, said an embassy spokesman.

Those closed are in the eastern city of Lahore and the northwestern city of Peshawar, which is close to the country’s tribal belt that Washington has called the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

Note that the Karachi consulate has been re-opened for today despite the prediction of protests in Karachi. However, it is significant that the Lahore consulate is closed since this is where massive protests were held for many days during the prolonged Raymond Davis saga.

The complexity of the situation in Pakistan is reflected in part in its politics.  In an analysis at the Express Tribune, we see a listing of some of the radical groups in Pakistan with ties to both al Qaeda and the political system:

Harkatul Jihadul Islami, Jaishe Muhammad, Sipahe Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and Lashkar-e-Taiba are some of the many organisations that were allowed to spread their network and physical infrastructure into the ‘settled’ areas of Pakistan such as Punjab and Sindh.

These organisations have deep links with al Qaeda and have allegedly collaborated with Osama bin Laden’s terror network against targets in Pakistan and South Asia at large. The larger Asian region is concerned about the linkages as recent stories have emerged regarding individuals coming from Indonesia and many countries in Europe to train in Pakistan.

/snip/

Most of the militant outfits now have developed influential ties within the mainstream political parties as well. These militant forces might not conduct a vicious attack on the Pakistani state just yet. But they are likely to use the chaos to re-group and consolidate through manipulating the public discourse on terrorism run through the private and public media.

Zardari’s piece also provides some perspective on these radicals and their status in the political system:

Radical religious parties have never received more than 11 percent of the vote. Recent polls showed that 85 percent of our people are strongly opposed to al-Qaeda. In 2009, when the Taliban briefly took over the Swat Valley, it demonstrated to the people of Pakistan what our future would look like under its rule — repressive politics, religious fanaticism, bigotry and discrimination against girls and women, closing of schools and burning of books. Those few months did more to unite the people of Pakistan around our moderate vision of the future than anything else possibly could.

These figures from Zardari demonstrate that while organized and vocal, Pakistan’s radical religious groups appear to be less numerous at the polls than the radical Christian fundamentalist voting bloc in the US.

Drone Strikes in Pakistan Resume After Key ISI-CIA Meeting

4:27 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

On Tuesday, Marcy Wheeler pointed out that the meeting in Washington between Leon Panetta and his Pakistani counterpart, ISI head Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha was cut short. A key topic in the meeting was the ongoing tension over US drone strikes in Pakistan. On cue, and apparently while Pasha was still in transit back from Washington, four drone-fired missiles struck in South Waziristan on Wednesday, killing four and prompting more protests from Pakistan. This strike was the first since a strike on March 17, the day after Raymond Davis was released, killed a large number of civilians, provoking widespread outrage in Pakistan and leading to a halt in US strikes.

The headline announcing the drone strikes in Pakistan’s Express Tribune captured what is likely a response that spread through Pakistan as news of the new drone strike spread: “US mocks Pak demand with fresh drone strike“. After describing the attack, which in this article was said to kill six rather than four, the article went on to provide details:

“Four missiles were fired. The target was a vehicle. Six militants were killed,” a military official told AFP requesting anonymity.

Intelligence officials said the dead belonged to the Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda-allied group run by veteran Afghan warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani and based in North Waziristan.

An administration official in South Waziristan said those who died were “all Afghans.”

Dawn noted that the nature of Pakistan’s protest over this strike is different from past complaints:

An unusual aspect of the remonstration was that it was the first time in a couple of years that a démarche was made on a missile strike targeting militants — an indication that Islamabad may be revisiting its tacit tolerance of hits by pilotless predators on militant sites.

Military sources confirmed to Dawn that those killed and injured in the drone attack on Wednesday were Afghans.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the drone attack at Angoor Adda today. We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counter-productive and only contribute to strengthening the hands of terrorists,” Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told US Ambassador Cameron Munter while lodging the protest with him.

Noting how the attacks “strengthen the hands of terrorists” is a very interesting tactic and seems to be new.

At the same time as this attack, Dawn also was providing information from the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued its annual report which states that over 900 people were killed due to American Drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, DawnNews reports.

The reports which focuses on human rights violations in the country also lays an emphasis on terror attacks in 2010 as a result of which 1100 people were killed.

In other words, the number killed by US drones is within 20 percent of those killed in terrorist attacks within Pakistan.

In a blog post at Dawn, Nadir Hassan provides a very interesting analysis of the ongoing struggles between Pakistan and the US. Hassan notes that Pakistan has no leverage in its quest to end the drone strikes:

Let’s get real though. Making demands is one thing. Expecting those demands to be fulfilled is quite another. The alliance between the US and Pakistan is often called a “transactional relationship.” The US pays for what it wants and we give it to them, holding our nose and counting the cash. In such a relationship you don’t get to have your complaints heard.

Before making demands, we need leverage. Cash-strapped as we are, we cannot tell the US to keep its foreign aid and we’ll keep our sovereignty, thank you very much. The problem is we do not have any other kind of leverage either. The US has two fears about Pakistan: that the country will be taken over by terrorists or that they will get their hands on our nuclear arsenal. As much as we use the Taliban threat – and it is a very real threat, although not one that will take over the government, as panicked Westerners fear – to wring more strings-attached aid out of the US, ultimately everyone knows that it is equally in Pakistan’s interest to keep the Taliban at bay. Sure, we may use them and keep them alive to bolster our misguided policy, but the Taliban is as much a threat to the military and civilian leadership here as it is to the US. Similarly, we cannot bluff the Americans into agreeing to our demands by implying that we will hand over a nuke or two to the militants. Basically, it all boils down to having no leverage.

There is one negotiating tactic the military could use, although its chances for success are slim. Pakistan is a vital supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan, one that the army could threaten to shut down if some of their concerns aren’t addressed. It would be inconvenient for the US to rely solely on Central Asian routes to supply the coalition forces so perhaps this threat could get us a minor concession or two. For that, too, the window of opportunity is narrow. If President Barack Obama follows through on his promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next years, Pakistan’s role as a hub will diminish.

It is interesting that Hassan would mention attacks on supply convoys, since that tactic already has been used, as many fuel tankers were burned while Pakistan had closed a border crossing in the dispute over the US killing three Pakistani soldiers at a border station. Since Dawn is viewed by some to be a mouthpiece of the Pakistani military, it will be interesting to see if the next step in escalation of tensions will be a return to more attacks on supply convoys.

In contrast with the “mocking” nature of the US drone attack while Pasha was still in transit back from Washington, there is word today the Pakistan also appears to be going along with US demands to control Taliban forces within its borders:

Pakistani troops and paramilitary forces, backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes, targeted Taliban positions in the tribal region of Mohmand near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing at least 18 militants, a regional government official said.

Pakistan’s military has recently mounted an offensive in villages bordering Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar in pursuit of militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban who want to destabilize the U.S. ally and impose Taliban-style rule.

“We are going after them with full force, using every kind of force. They carry out attacks and other activities from there,” Masood Khan, the government official, said.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Drone Strikes Again on Hold As US-Pakistan Relations Continue to Deteriorate

5:44 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Gen. James (fun to shoot some people) Mattis is meeting with the head of Pakistan's military today. What could possibly go wrong? (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As relations between the US and Pakistan continue to deteriorate, it appears that drone strikes have again been put on hold. I can find no reports of any strikes since the March 17 strike on a village jirga killed over forty people. This strike especially infuriated Pakistan, coming just a day after Raymond Davis was released and, despite ample evidence of many civilians being killed, the initial US response was defiant, claiming that only militants were killed and that those killed “weren’t gathering for a bake sale”. Pakistan immediately canceled its participation in the already delayed (due to the Davis case again) trilateral meeting with the US and Afghanistan. I can find no new date yet announced for this meeting.  The US military has clearly stated that General David Petraeus has not apologized to Pakistan’s military for the strike and now General James (fun to shoot some people) Mattis is meeting with the head of Pakistan’s army today.  This meeting comes amid yet another escalation in the diplomatic break between the two countries, as Dawn reports that a number of US military personnel have been barred from the leaving the country.

There is a chronological list of drone strikes in Pakistan at Wikipedia.  Note that Raymond Davis was arrested after killing two Pakistanis on January 7 of this year.  It took a while for relations over this incident to fray, but notice that at the height of the Davis crisis, there were no drone strikes between the strikes on January 23 and February 21, a gap of almost a month.  It was in the middle of that gap, on February 12, when the US announced that it was delaying the trilateral meeting, presumably as a protest against Davis being held.  We now are in a gap of three weeks, with no reported attacks since the March 17 attack a day after Davis’ release.  This attack prompted a rare immediate response from the Pakistan military:

The Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued an unusual and unusually strong condemnation of the attack. “It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens, including elders of the area, was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life,” the statement said.

And as mentioned above, the US response only heightened the crisis:

But American officials on Thursday sharply disputed Pakistan’s account of the strikes and the civilian deaths, contending that all the people killed were insurgents. “These people weren’t gathering for a bake sale,” an American official said. “They were terrorists.”

After some local Pakistani press reports that Petraeus had apologized to Kayani for the attack, the US military made the strange move of denying such an apology:

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has neither apologised nor given any explanation to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani regarding the killing of 44 civilians in the March 17 drone attack in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan Agency.

A local news agency reported that Petraeus had contacted Kayani to apologise over the killings.

/snip/

When contacted by The News, a US military source in Pakistan denied these reports carried by a local news agency, and said, “With regards to the allegation that General Petraeus contacted the Pakistani military or that he expressed regret over this alleged incident, I can assure you that General Petraeus hasn’t had any contact with Pakistani military leaders since his meeting with General Kayani on March 3.”

In a further escalation of diplomatic moves, Pakistan has now barred a number of US military personnel from leaving the country:

There are varying claims about the number of US soldiers denied exit from the country. Some sources claim that about 20-30 people have been affected, while others contend the figure is slightly less than one hundred.

The men were assigned to the US Office of Defence Representative in Pakistan (ODRP), which oversees Washington`s military relations with Islamabad, including training and equipment.

Most of these people had been working on different projects with the Pakistan military. Some of the soldiers had overstayed their visas while a majority of them had expired NOCs.

In the midst of these tensions comes today’s meeting between General James Mattis, head of Central Command and Kayani:

General Mattis, head of US Central Command overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, would meet Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani for a “regular, scheduled visit”, the US embassy in Islamabad said.

“It’s not extraordinary… it’s a military to military relationship,” said embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

But the visit comes after a US report this week criticised the Pakistani military for failing to forge a clear and sustained path to beat religious insurgents holed up in the lawless regions bordering Afghanistan.

Let’s hope that Mattis has learned some diplomacy since his famous speech in 2005:

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday during a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot,” Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

What could possibly go wrong by sending this man to a critical meeting during a time of frayed relations?

Quagmires R Us: Now Adding Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Dial "Q" for quagmire. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarkably, the US is sending “clandestine” CIA teams into Libya to coordinate bombing runs and to provide contact with the rebels there at the same time that courts in Pakistan are still sorting out how Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country after his blood money payment despite having been placed on the Exit Control List.  Also, Washington is gearing up for a “debate” on drawing down US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military now angling to narrow the options to include only insignificant numbers to be withdrawn.  Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the remaining “non-combat” US troops there, violence in Iraq continues, with 56 killed in a single attack Wednesday.

In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has given various government offices until April 8 to respond to a petition that has been filed with the court requesting information on how CIA operative Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country despite having been placed on the Exit Control List:

The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, requested the court to seek explanation from Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, AD&SJ Mohammad Yousuf Aujla and others as to why they facilitated Davis in his acquittal and emergent departure despite the fact that his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

/snip/

The petitioner had stated that the LHC had directed the interior ministry to place Davis’s name on the ECL and the court was also assured by a law officer and the ministry that the order had been complied with.

He had further said that the court order was in place when Davis was released and the LHC had not suspended or withdrawn its order and no such application was filed by any one on behalf of Davis.

The petitioner had therefore alleged that the government and its functionaries released Davis ignoring the order of the LHC through which his name was placed on the ECL.

And yet, despite the ongoing fallout from the CIA’s continuing misadventures in Pakistan, Obama has signed a “finding” allowing CIA teams to enter Libya with assignments that appear to be very similar to Davis’ reported activities in developing targets for drone attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

/snip/

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

/snip/

In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.

Given the track record of the US in these matters, you can bet that it is only a matter of time until our operatives are engaged not just in “directing the actions” of the the rebels but also actively engaged in the miraculous “training” that always is just on the verge of achieving success, but needs only another Friedman Unit or two to be completed. Of course, we probably also will need some drone strikes to “protect” the rebels and their trainers, too.

At the more mature end of the quagmire process that is beginning in Libya, we are about to move to the next phase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports Thursday morning on the upcoming battle over the extent of troop reductions this summer:

Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate.

Despite the fact that Obama is the Commander in Chief, Obama is following his usual negotiation strategy by allowing others to set the parameters of the debate:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House.

/snip/

As both sides prepare for what they expect to be a vigorous debate, they are seeking ways to achieve their favored outcome by limiting what the other can do. For the military, that means crafting a narrow set of choices, because there is general agreement that reduction numbers need to originate in the field, not be imposed by the White House. But the National Security Council may attempt to impose its own limitations by setting a date by which all the surge forces must be brought home, the officials said.

And how is that going to work out? We only need go as far as Iraq to find out. The “drawdown” there was finalized by redefining the remaining troops as “non-combat”. And that is going just swimmingly:

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for a bloody siege in Tikrit in which 56 people were killed, Iraqi officials have said.

Tuesday’s attack took place at a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A fierce gun-battle ended when the attackers – numbering about eight – blew themselves up.

Just how many quagmires do we have to be engaged in simultaneously for the military-industrial-congressional complex to be satisfied?

Raymond Davis Freed After Payment of Blood Money

4:58 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Raymond Davis on the day of his arrest. (screengrab from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-kcRDhatoM)

With all of the attention on Japan in the past few days, I missed the scheduled hearing date of March 14 for Raymond Davis’ immunity question to be settled. It turns out the Lahore High Court punted on that issue on the 14th, and referred the immunity question back to the criminal trial which was underway but in recess. Today, however, Davis was released after payment of blood money to the surviving family members of his victims. This is likely not to go over well in Pakistan, where a group of ex-military members yesterday called for Davis to be waterboarded, in order to eliminate his “network”.

Here is Dawn on the release:

A Pakistan court on Wednesday freed CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was accused of murdering two men in Lahore, after blood money was paid in accordance with sharia law, the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.

“The family members of the slain men appeared in the court and independently verified they had pardoned him (Davis),” provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told private Geo television.

“He has been released from jail. Now it is up to him. He can go wherever he wants,” he added.

The Express Tribune has more:

Initial reports from sources state that Davis has been flown to London.

A sessions court has acquitted Davis. Earlier in the day, a sessions court judge in Lahore had formally indicted US national Davis.

On Monday, the Lahore High Court had refused to rule on the question of diplomatic immunity for Davis, sending the question back to the sessions court where he was being tried in the murder case:

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled on Monday that the matter of immunity for US citizen Raymond Davis will be decided by the trial court, and disposed of all petitions challenging his diplomatic status in Pakistan.

When the government replied vaguely on the issue, LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry silenced petitioners’ lawyers — who created pandemonium after hearing unclear replies submitted by the foreign ministry, — by observing that since the Davis trial was in progress, the trial court should be allowed to “adjudicate on this matter”.

Questioning the government counsel if his side had submitted any letter establishing his diplomatic status, the chief justice said that if the foreign ministry did not issue any letter for the diplomatic status of the accused, why should the court insist on submitting such a certificate?

As a preview of how badly Davis’ release will be received in Pakistan, consider this call from a group of ex-servicemembers yesterday for Davis to be waterboarded:

The 2,000-member strong Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) is joining political parties, religious groups and security officials by diving headfirst into the chatter over the Raymond Davis issue. It plans to stage a protest in Islamabad on March 23 to raise awareness about “issues of national interest”, including the case of Raymond Davis.

/snip/

The demands laid out in an e-mail sent to PESA’s members call for the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

The e-mail says: “Raymond Davis is seen as a saboteur operating as a mercenary for the destabilisation of Pakistan, under the protection of the US government. He has been creating and executing threats to the security of our citizens and homeland. He must be fully interrogated using all methods (including water-boarding) that are used by the US against those who act against the security of the US. His network and methods must be followed and eliminated. Probability of other mercenaries/CIA operated networks must be investigated through him.”

According to a 2004 CIA report, 9/11 suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammad was waterboarded 183 times. The report defined the technique: “The application of the waterboard technique involves binding a detainee to a bench with his feet elevated over his head. The detainee’s head is immobilised and an interrogator places a cloth over the detainee’s mouth and nose while pouring water onto the cloth in a controlled manner. Airflow is restricted for 20 to 40 seconds and the technique produces the sensation of drowning and suffocation.”

I will watch for reports of reaction to Davis’ release.

Raymond Davis Murder Trial Postponed, DeHaven Granted Bail, CIA-ISI Tensions Grow

5:33 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

In my last update on the Raymond Davis case, I suggested that it appeared that Davis would possibly be convicted for the killing of two Pakistanis on January 27 in Lahore before his March 14 hearing scheduled on the issue of diplomatic immunity. Tuesday, however, proceedings in the murder case were adjourned until March 16, two days after the immunity hearing. Other related developments include the granting of bail for Aaron DeHaven and discussions in multiple venues (see Scott Horton’s discussion in the video and this NPR story) of the increasing tensions between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI that this case has exposed.

Dawn reports on the delay in the murder trial:

A sessions court adjourned on Tuesday the hearing of the Raymond Davis double-murder case till March 16 after the counsel for the accused pointed out that the prosecution didn`t provide them recovery memos pertaining to the case.

“Though we had provided complete challan papers to the counsel for the accused on the last hearing, on Tuesday they sought recovery memos, the documents relating to the items recovered from the accused,” the Punjab additional prosecutor general (APG) told this reporter.

He said accordingly, the prosecution provided the required documents to the counsel soon after the court ordered them to do so. He said the prosecution team had also requested the court to charge the accused in the case but the judge adjourned the hearing till March 16.

Via AFP, Dawn also has details on Aaron DeHaven, who was detained in Peshawar for over-staying his visa:

A Pakistani court granted bail on Monday to a US citizen said to have been working for a private security company and detained after he outstayed his Pakistani visa, court officials said.

/snip/

“The US national has been ordered to submit a surety bond of two million rupees (about $23,500). His release orders will be issued soon after furnishing the surety bonds,” a court official said.

De Haven has been ordered not to leave the area without informing police until his case is concluded, the official added.

Meanwhile, the prospects of arranging payment of blood money still seem dim. The widow of one of Davis’ victims spoke out today, accusing the Punjab government of not working hard enough on the case:

Zahra Faizan, the widow of one of the victims of the Lahore shooting case, stated that the Punjab government is not working sincerely in the Raymond Davis case. However, she expressed satisfaction over judiciary’s role in the case.

/snip/

Talking to media after the meeting, she said that she was not satisfied with the case as yet.

She demanded that the Punjab government should bring the culprits to justice and also thanked the PML-Q leaders for their support.

Hmm, speaking of blood money, why do you suppose David Ignatius suddenly inserted himself (h/t bmaz) last week into the public discussions of “blood money” in this case?

In addition to Scott Horton’s explanation of CIA-ISI tensions in the video above, consider these tidbits from an NPR story from Tuesday:

Mr. ROBERT GRENIER (Former CIA Station Chief in Pakistan): I think the ISI is feeling embarrassed because this sort underscores that the ISI, you know, doesn’t have control over what foreign intelligence is doing in its country, or at least it appears that way, and I think that they’re very sensitive to that.

Rachel Martin then continues with Dr. Christine Fair, of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University:

MARTIN: Fair says she could see ISI officials asking for more control over which U.S. government employees are issued visas to Pakistan and a bigger say in the size of the U.S. footprint in the country. Much of that footprint is devoted to tracking down militant groups operating inside Pakistan. There are three big ones: Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Christine Fair says the CIA and the ISI have totally different views on these groups. The CIA sees them as existential threats to America.

Ms. CHRISTINE FAIR: In contrast, the ISI sees these groups as existential assets, and so this is where our two countries are at absolute loggerheads. Theres really no way of finessing this fundamental difference.

Wow. When the CIA is working to destroy groups that it sees as existential threats, while the intelligence service of the home country in which those groups operate, the ISI, sees these same groups as existential assets, it is very hard for me to see how the two intelligence services could ever be expected to work together or find areas in which they are comfortable sharing information with one another. While the Davis case has perhaps brought full attention to this fundamental difference between the CIA and ISI, those differences will persist long after the Davis case is resolved.

Raymond Davis Murder Trial Proceeds, Blood Money Discussed, Germans Arrested

8:13 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Developments in the Raymond Davis case are continuing. Davis’ double murder trial for his killing of two Pakistani citizens on January 27 in Lahore will resume on March 8, with the hearing on his immunity status still postponed until March 14. David Ignatius reported earlier this week that the concept of the payment of blood money is being discussed as a way out of the impasse, and the Washington Post is continuing with that theme today. In a somewhat related development, five German nationals have been arrested in Lahore as Pakistan continues to review the documentation of foreign nationals who might fit the profiles of Raymond Davis or Aaron Dehaven.

Here is Dawn’s description of the proceedings Thursday in the “sessions court” which is hearing the double murder charges against Davis, with the proceedings being carried out in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore:

A sessions court rejected on Thursday US citizen Raymond Davis’s claim that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and decided to go ahead with his trial.

/snip/

“I also told the court since various petitions relating to Davis’s immunity are being heard by the Lahore High Court, trying the accused right now will be a wastage of time,” Mr Bukhari said.

He said the court, however, rejected his plea saying it had not received any stay order from the superior court.

Mr. Bukhari is a retired judge who is Davis’ defense attorney. The article then went on to state that the trial was adjourned until March 8.

With the murder trial moving ahead before the hearing on immunity, the parallel pressure for a “blood money” route becomes very significant. Here is Ignatius’ description from Wednesday:

This approach would require a prominent Islamic intermediary – perhaps from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates – who would invite relatives of the two men Davis killed to the Gulf. Payment to the victims’ families could then be negotiated quietly. Once the next of kin had agreed to this settlement, the legal case against Davis for murder might be moot in a Pakistani court.

A senior Pakistani official in Washington outlined this “blood money” concept in a conversation Monday. An official of that country’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate also endorsed this approach; he said it had the advantage of meshing with the dispute-resolution customs of the Middle East and South Asia.

Asked about such a third-party mediation to free Davis, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday: “The United States is open to exploring any and all options that could resolve this matter. . . . It’s in our mutual interest to move beyond the Davis issue, and we believe the Pakistanis understand the stakes involved.”

So it would appear that Ignatius, who has a reputation for close contact with the CIA, has been in contact also with ISI. Both ISI and the CIA appear to be leaning in favor of blood money, at least as Ignatius would have us believe. This approach puts Davis’ fate in the hands of the families of those killed, and this remarkable interview with several of the family members shows that getting forgiveness from them is not going to be easy:

What is important here is that the decision by the families on whether to accept blood money must be made prior to a verdict being rendered in the murder trial. Since the trial now is slated to resume on Tuesday, these negotiations have little time left.

It is intriguing to me that the Lahore High Court has chosen not to order the murder trial delayed until after it makes a decision on immunity. Perhaps the High Court has decided that should the families not opt to accept blood money, a strategic outcome might be to allow a guilty verdict to be rendered and then to declare immunity after the fact. Perhaps such immunity after the fact would come conditioned on some sort of promise from the US to jail Davis for his crime.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s process of examining the immigration status of foreign nationals who might be involved in intelligence continues. Following on the arrest of US national Aaron DeHaven last week, five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday, and just as was the case for Davis, they are said to have had “sensitive” photos on their cameras:

Five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday for not having their travel documents.

According to Express 24/7 correspondent Shiraz Hasnat, the foreigners were not able to provide their documents and were taken into custody for questioning by the police.

The reporter said that police had found snapshots on their cameras of the railway headquarters and other senstive [sic] areas nearby.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Davis Update: US Nixes Siddiqui Trade, Poisoning Thwarted

6:25 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Brian Ross (disclaimer: often, what we learn from Ross is what the CIA wants us to know, search on “Brian Ross” “anthrax” and “Glenn Greenwald” for details) reports that the US has categorically rejected the concept of trading Aafia Siddiqui for Raymond Davis. At the same time, BBC provides a very interesting background piece on the Davis affair, in which they describe the agendas of various government and non-government entities involved in the legal and political conflict that has arisen from the case. Buried in that description, however, is a very interesting report that the uncle of the widow who committed suicide out of remorse that her husband’s killer would never face judgment now reports that he was attacked by two men who tried to force rat poison down his throat. Possibly (but not necessarily) related is a new report in the New York Times letting us know that Dewey Clarridge’s shadowy group has not yet been disbanded and has been doing work for the FBI.  Finally, we also learn from Dawn that at least 45 people whose contact information was in Davis’ cell phone have been arrested.

It appears that the US response to a proposed Aafia Siddiqui-Raymond Davis trade is an emphatic “no”:

According to a senior American administration official and a Pakistani official involved in the negotiations to free CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the Pakistani government proposed trading Davis for Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving 86 years in federal prison for attempted murder.

The offer was immediately dismissed by the U.S. government. “The Pakistanis have raised it,” the U.S. official said. “We are not going to pursue it.”

I think that on this one, I have to agree with commenter quanto, who pointed out this development in comments to my post from yesterday, adding: “They probably don’t want the backlash of the Pakistanis seeing what condition we left her in.”

In the meantime, BBC goes into detail on how the Pakistani federal government and the Punjab provincial government are at odds on the handling of the Davis case:

The Pakistani government, which apparently issued Mr Davis a diplomatic visa, seems inclined to release him and end the diplomatic row.

But, according to political analyst Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi of Lahore, local islamist groups are behind massive anti-Davis demonstrations in the area, and this has the Punjab provincial government bucking the federal government:

He says the PML-N party, which rules the Punjab province, knows “the mood in the streets (and) is not willing to help the federal government”.

But also in this article is a very interesting revelation:

But the latest development was buried deep in the Pakistani newspapers last week. It was a report about a man taken to hospital after intruders tried to force poison down his throat.

The man in question was Mohammad Sarwar, the uncle of Shumaila Kanwal, the widow of one of the men shot by Raymond Davis.

Because she made televised death-bed statements about her suicide, it seems doubtful that Sumaila Kanwal’s suicide was “forced”, but this development regarding her uncle, at whose house she was staying at the time of her suicide, certainly complicates matters.

Because the US has admitted that Davis was a contractor working for the CIA, it seems relevant to consider an article published late Monday on the New York Times website and appearing in the Tuesday print edition.  Here, we learn that the shadowy group run by Dewey Clarridge has not yet been disbanded and may have been used by the FBI to gather intelligence on corruption in Hamid Karzai’s administration.  This portion of the report stands out:

Mr. Clarridge’s spy network is made up of former C.I.A. and special forces operatives, as well as dozens of Afghan and Pakistani locals. From his home near San Diego, Mr. Clarridge pieces together dispatches from overseas and arranges for the reports to be posted on a password-protected Web site.

Hmmm. So Clarridge has been running a contractor group that includes former special forces operatives, which Davis is, and when reports first came out about his group, it was noted that they were being used to develop targets for assassination in Pakistan and Afghanistan, just as Davis has been accused by some of being involved in choosing targets for drone attacks.

It is going to take a very long time to sort out the various groups the US has operating within Pakistan. As I pointed out yesterday, Pakistan seems to be moving quickly in trying to identify some of these US personnel, as they have inventoried those with diplomatic immunity and arrested at least one US contractor who appeared to overstay his visa, leading others to leave the country. Of further note along these lines is the revelation (again, h/t to quanto in the same comment discussed above) that Pakistan has now arrested at least 45 people whose contact information was in Davis’ phone:

The law enforcement agencies arrested 45 individuals for staying in constant contact with Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore last month, DawnNews reported on Monday.

The individuals had been arrested from Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar and their contact information was taken from Davis’ mobile phone. Investigations were underway.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Express Tribune: Some US Operatives Leaving Pakistan

6:47 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

The fallout from US-Pakistan tensions over the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis for killing two Pakistanis on January 27 has continued to expand.  Dawn.com reported on Friday on the number of US personnel in Pakistan believed to have diplomatic immunity, and on the same day, an American was arrested for overstaying his visa in Pakistan. Taken together, these bits of information suggest that Pakistan is carefully analyzing the data it has on potential US operatives within Pakistan and is carefully documenting their status. On Monday, the Express Tribune reported that it has received word that some suspected US spies in Pakistan have stopped their activities and some have even left the country.

The evidence that Pakistan is scouring its records to search for other operatives similar to Raymond Davis appeared in Dawn on Friday:

As many as 2,570 foreigners currently working in foreign missions of 78 countries in Pakistan enjoy diplomatic immunity, Minister of State (MoS) for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar Friday told the National Assembly.

/snip/

Giving details of the countries and diplomats she said that 851 US nationals working in Pakistan enjoy immunity. Out of these 554 are diplomats while 297 are non-diplomats.

/snip/

It was also informed that 31 US nationals are working in the US Consulate in Lahore and enjoying immunity.

Similarly, 52 and 58 US nationals work in US consulates located in Karachi and Peshawar respectively and enjoy diplomatic immunity.

The Guardian reported on Friday that American Aaron Mark DeHaven was arrested for overstaying his visa in Pakistan:

Peshawar police arrested Aaron DeHaven, a contractor who recently worked for the US embassy in Islamabad, saying that his visa had expired.

Little was known about DeHaven except that his firm, which also has offices in Afghanistan and Dubai, is staffed by retired US military and defence personnel who boast of direct experience in the “global war on terror”.

/snip/

His business partner is listed on company documents as Hunter Obrikat with an address in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Guardian was unable to contact either men at listed numbers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and Dubai.

The website for Catalyst Services, LLC can be found here. It is far more polished than the websites associated with Raymond Davis’ businesses. The US phone number listed for the company has a West Virginia area code, but gives no names for individuals within the company. Searching the West Virginia database of business entities does not find a Catalyst Services, LLC registered in the state, nor does DeHaven’s name turn up associated with any other business entities.

I have not found any documents unrelated to the Guardian article that link Dehaven and Obrikat, but North Carolina state records do show a Catalyst Services USA, LLC with Obrikat as the sole individual identified with it.

It would seem that the news that Pakistan is scouring the records of potential intelligence operatives and even arresting individuals who don’t have all of their affairs in order has some operatives shutting down their activities or leaving the country altogether. The Express Tribune reports on Monday:

At least 30 suspected covert American operatives have suspended their activities in Pakistan and 12 have already left the country, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In the aftermath of the shootings in Lahore on January 27 by suspected CIA operative Raymond Davis, intelligence agencies in Pakistan began scrutinising records of the Americans living in Pakistan and discovered several discrepancies, causing many suspected American operatives to maintain a low profile and others to leave the country altogether.

/snip/

Most of the ‘special Americans’ are suspected of being operatives of US intelligence agencies who are on covert missions in Pakistan, reporting to the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), according to sources familiar with the situation.

Hmmm. It’s nice to see that the rest of the world is beginning to catch up to Jeremy Scahill’s work from December, 2009.

Since security contractors are reported to be leaving Pakistan, it comes as no surprise that DeHaven’s request for bail was denied:

A court in northwest Pakistan Monday rejected the bail application of an American said to have been working for a private security company who is accused of overstaying his visa.

“The bail application of Aaron Mark De Haven has been rejected because he had no legal documents,” public prosecutor Javed Ali told AFP in Peshawar.

The US Embassy seems quite subdued in its latest statement about DeHaven:

A U.S. citizen was remanded into judicial custody this morning at a court hearing in Peshawar. U.S. consular representatives have met with him, as they would with any private American citizen. We appreciate the cooperation of the Pakistani authorities and respect the Pakistani legal process.

So far, at least, it does not look like the US will make the same effort on behalf of DeHaven as it is making for Davis.