ISLAMABAD: Why is Petraeus firing shots at ISI?

By Farrukh Saleem

ISLAMABAD: General David Howell Petraeus is the new commanding general of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). General Petraeus, once the commanding general Mutli-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I), is the general who co-opted Iran and managed to bring a degree of stability to Iraq.
The Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the CENTCOM has 27 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. In the month of June, for the first time ever, there were more coalition military fatalities in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

As the war-focus of America moves from Iraq to Afghanistan, the new general at the CENTCOM has a new assignment: To keep the Afghan boiler from broiling 32,500 US troops. Can General Petraeus succeed where others before him have been failing for half a dozen years? No ordinary soldier is General Petraeus; a soldier, an academician and an international affairs expert all rolled into one. A distinguished West Point cadet, the top graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth and a PhD degree holder from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at the Princeton University.

What is the new strategy of the new general going to be? On May 22, General Petraeus endorsed a US intelligence “assessment that the next 9/11-type attack on the US soil would come from Al-Qaeda bases in Pakistanض” On July 27, Reuters, citing an editorial in Afghan-government daily Anis, reported: “Iran has become the primary route for insurgents to enter Pakistan’s Waziristan region from where they enter Afghanistan to attack targets there.”

What are the options of General Petraeus on Pakistan? Targeted air strikes, hot ground pursuits, stricter border controls, containment of Pakistan or isolating the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan. General Petraeus views Pakistan both as part of the problem and part of the solution. Unilateral US action — barring a direct attack on the US soil originating from the Pakistani territory — therefore, is not on the cards.

On July 26, General Petraeus fired his first shot at the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). At 9pm, a Government of Pakistan notification brought the ISI and the IB under the “administrative, financial and operational” control of the Ministry of Interior.

On July 30, General Petraeus fired his second shot at the ISI. The New York Times alleged that the CIA’s “assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of Al-Qaeda in Pakistanيs tribal areas.î The Bush administration has never before used the American media to explicitly accuse the ISI. Under the new commanding general, that no longer is the policy.

On August 1, General Petraeus fired his third shot at the ISI. This time around, the Times declared: “American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul.”

The CIA and the ISI have been sharing secrets for at least three decades. The two spy agencies are as close to each other as any two spies can be. Clearly, General Petraeus is having difficulty reading what the ISI is all about. Can it ever be brought under full civilian control? Is it a monolithic, disciplined entity or does it have renegade elements?

What are the new recipes of the new general to cool down the temperature of the Afghan boiler? Co-opting Iran and India is one and firing shots at the ISI is the other. Will the new general succeed where others before him have failed? To be certain, for the new general to succeed, he would have to look at why the American generals before him failed.

Source: The News, 5/8/2008

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