Kayani called a ‘master manipulator’

* Most veterans term CIA-ISI ties a ‘bad marriage’
* NYT says ISI faces difficulties in FATA

By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: A recently retired senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official said that of all the foreign spymasters the CIA had dealt with, Gen Ashfaq Kayani was the most formidable and a master manipulator, a report in the New York Times by Mark Mazzetti said on Sunday.

Gen Ashfaq Kayani, when he was the head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was described by American officials as a smart and urbane general, at once engaging and inscrutable, an avid golfer with occasionally odd affectations. During meetings, he would often spend several minutes carefully hand-rolling a cigarette. Then, after taking one puff, he would stub it out.


Bad marriage: Most CIA veterans agree that relations between CIA and ISI is like a bad marriage, in which both spouses have long stopped trusting each other but would never think of breaking up because they have become so mutually dependent.

The grumbling at the CIA about dealing with Pakistan’s ISI comes with a certain grudging reverence for the spy services’ scheming qualities. Some former spies even talk about the Pakistani agency with a mix of awe and professional jealousy.

The article in Sundays New York Times admits that without the ISI’s help, American spies in Pakistan would be incapable of carrying out their primary mission in the country of hunting militants, including top members of Al Qaeda. Without the millions of covert American dollars sent annually to Pakistan, the ISI would have trouble competing with the spy service of its archrival, India. But a web of competing interests complicates the relationship. The top American goal in the region is to shore up Afghanistan’s government and security services to better fight the ISI’s traditional proxies, the , there. Inside Pakistan, America’s primary interest is to dismantle a Taliban and Al Qaeda safe haven in the mountainous tribal lands.

Tribal Areas: The report notes that even the powerful ISI has difficulties collecting information in the tribal lands, the home of fiercely independent Pashtun tribes. For this reason, the ISI has long been forced to rely on Pashtun tribal leaders and in some cases Pashtun militants as key informants. Given the natural disadvantages, CIA officers try to get any edge they can through technology, the one advantage they have over the local spies. The Pakistan government has long restricted where the CIA can fly Predator surveillance drones inside Pakistan, limiting paths to approved boxes on a grid map.

Source: daily times, 21/7/2008

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