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Archive for category US SPYING ON PAKISTAN FOR INDIA & ISRAEL

TWO U.S GENERALS ON U.S – PAKISTAN RELATIONS by General Joseph Votel (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata (Ret.)

TWO U.S GENERALS ON U.S – PAKISTAN RELATIONS

 

 

 

 

 

The generals have summed up the situation extremely well from the U.S perspective which is not the same as that of Pakistan. The elephant in the room remains China with which the U.S has an adversarial relationship. The U.S objectives in the region are mostly centred on China. Pakistan cannot, and hopefully will not, risk her friendship with the latter for any reason or any country. It is not an issue that is open to argument knowing that if there is ever the need, China is the only country that can and will rescue Pakistan. You can only gamble with national security at your peril.
K. H Zia.
“We believe the time has come for serious policy consideration of whether and how both nations can achieve a more strategically beneficial and sustainable post-intervention relationship between the American and Pakistani governments and their populations.” 
 

The Future of US Cooperation with Pakistan

AUGUST 1, 2021 | THE CIPHER BRIEF

This piece by General Joseph Votel (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata (Ret.) and was first published by our friends at the Middle East Institute.
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Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael K. Nagata is a distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2019 after 38 years of active duty, with 34 years in US Special Operations. His final position was director of strategy for the National Counterterrorism Center from 2016 to 2019.
Gen. (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI. He retired as a four-star general in the U.S. Army after a nearly 40-year career, during which he held a variety of commands in positions of leadership, including most recently as commander of CENTCOM from March 2016 to March 2019. 

The United States and Pakistan have had a complex and often disappointing “love-hate” relationship since 1947 — one severely tested during the 20-year U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan. We believe the time has come for serious policy consideration of whether and how both nations can achieve a more strategically beneficial and sustainable post-intervention relationship between the American and Pakistani governments and their populations.
As we consider a new policy, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of leading the international coalition is almost complete. Early indications are that Afghanistan is increasingly likely to descend into significant instability and possibly serious fracture, which will have unwelcome consequences for the Afghan people and all of Afghanistan’s neighbours. It is already clear that international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State-Khorasan Province will continue to enjoy and probably grow their safe-havens.
Whatever U.S. strategic concerns may be about the future of Afghanistan, the course and direction of Pakistan’s strategic choices in coming years will also matter to the United States. There are a variety of reasons for this.

First, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. Decades of investments in nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India, compounded by unrelenting and mutual historical, religious, cultural, and political antagonism between them, make this one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

Second, all of the countries Pakistan borders are consequential for the U.S. Pakistan also has significant religious, cultural, and economic ties to other Muslim states such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In an era of “great power competition,” while Pakistan may not be one of the principal players, its network of relationships can be of strategic benefit to any of the great powers now involved, including the U.S. and China.
 

Third, despite its significant political and economic difficulties, Pakistan has a growing technology sector. Its youthful population and worldwide diaspora of Pakistani doctors, scientists, academics, and other professionals have become an increasingly important part of the global community.

As long-time veterans of South Asia, both of us understand the sources of “weariness and wariness” that U.S. policymakers, in both Democratic and Republican administrations, often associate with strategic discussions of Pakistan. We have both seen the U.S. government’s reluctance toward undertaking any kind of strategic interaction or rapprochement with Pakistan because of previous disappointments or perceived betrayals. Understanding the enormous complexities of Pakistan’s relationships, influence, and strategic choices in the South Asia milieu can be intellectually challenging and draining.
Yet, we have both concluded that the only thing harder than establishing a functional and mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan is living without one. Given unstable borders, a nuclear standoff with India, the continued presence of terrorist organizations, and the high potential for all of this to further disrupt our interests, there is no better alternative.
Among those areas that we believe worth exploring with the Pakistanis are these:
First, the possibility of planning, along with other like-minded international actors (both state and non-state), to manage the consequences of significant political instability and human suffering emerging from Afghanistan, including the possibility of substantial refugee flight into Pakistan. Indeed, the Pakistanis have long and miserable memories of the surge of Afghan refugees after the Kabul government collapsed in the 1990s and have consistently expressed deep concerns about a possible repeat resulting from the U.S. withdrawal now nearing its completion.
Second, the possibility of counterterrorism cooperation against any terrorist threat that emerges from Afghanistan and prevents it from sowing further instability across the region. We do not consider it likely that Pakistan will allow any positioning of U.S. intelligence or counterterrorism elements within its borders. Still, there may be other ways (e.g., working groups, forums, or exchanges) to foster better cooperation if a threat emerges from Afghanistan that is of concern to our mutual interests.

Third, the possibility of enlisting Pakistan cooperation, and that of India, toward some type of partial de-escalation of tensions along their common border and, with it, even a slight amelioration of the nuclear weapons threat. It is instructive to recall that, before 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiated a dialogue about the de-escalation of tensions that included the highly emotional issue of Kashmir. However, talks broke down without significant agreement. While we recognize this is an extraordinarily complex and fraught issue for the U.S. to embrace, given all of its other strategic challenges, the spectre of a potential nuclear conflict in South Asia should at a minimum prompt us to ask ourselves, “why not at least try?” Indeed, U.S. antagonists such as China would probably take a dim view of such efforts, and we believe that might be a reason for doing so rather than a reason to flinch from it.

We have long heard U.S. policy and operational practitioners cite phrases such as “never underestimate the Pakistanis’ ability to disappoint us.” But, unfortunately, most American policymakers do not understand how often we have heard the Pakistanis say the same thing about Americans. Thus, both sides have longstanding “neuralgias” about the other. As we end our Afghan campaign, now is the time to move beyond our neuralgias and carefully weigh the strategic costs of whether trying to somehow partner with Pakistan is more, or less, than the cost of failing to do so. We believe, in the long run, it is likely to be less costly.
   

The Cipher Brief – Experts on National Security
Experts on National Security  

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Why did the USA lose in Afghanistan? by Brig.Gen (Retd)Asif Haroon Raja

Why did the USA lose in Afghanistan?

 

Brig.Gen (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan Army

 

 

 

The US and its allies were drunk with power and took pride in their sophisticated war munitions, technology and wealth. They were sure to win the war irrespective of having no cause, and having sinister hidden motives. The Taliban had no resources but had an edge over their opponents in the intangibles. They had complete faith in Allah and were on the righteous path. Their faith is still unshakable, and are unpurchasable. Hence their total victory is a foregone conclusion.

 

Causes of the US defeat in Afghanistan

 

Insincere and mala fide intentions filled with prejudices and injustices.

 

Cooked up charges to invade Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

 

No grounds to wage a cruel war against so many Muslim countries.

 

No love lost for the Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians, or any Muslim.

 

Minority non-Pashtun Afghans were empowered and majority Pashtuns sidelined and persecuted.

 

Pakistan which was instrumental in making the US the sole superpower, was mistrusted, ridiculed and penalized, while India which has no roots in Afghanistan, didn’t take part in the war on terror, and has been the biggest spoiler of peace, was trusted and made the main player by the US.  

 

Despite allocating over a trillion dollars development funds, the US failed to better the lives of Afghans living in poverty stricken rural areas.

 

The US continued to back the inept, corrupt and unpopular regimes of Karzai and Ashraf Ghani (AG) and failed to establish a stable government in Kabul.

 

One trillion dollars were spent on raising, training and equipping the ANSF, but the US-NATO trainers failed to develop their moral fibre, sense of discipline, motivation and will to fight.

 

ISAF and ANA were pampered, heavily paid and provided luxuries, which made them comfort loving and drug addicts. 

 

All the social crimes that were cleansed by the Taliban re-appeared and Afghanistan became the leading exporter of opium in the world.

 

Practice of ruthless bombings by jets and drones caused maximum deaths and injuries to the civilians; even funerals and weddings were not spared. Torture of prisoners and night raids were the tools widely used to break the will of opposing fighters. It gravitated the sympathies of the people towards the Taliban.

 

Too much trust in military might and no attention paid to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans.

 

Weak military commanders who didn’t know much about Afghanistan’s geography, tribal history and culture, and terrain. They never strategized or modified tactics to grapple with the tactics of the resistance forces. The IEDs threat couldn’t be tackled. More so, they didn’t inspire their own troops, what to talk of the military contingents from 48 countries. Some top commanders were involved in love affairs and sex scandals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Courtesy – Global Times, People’s Republic of China

The initial plan of occupying Afghanistan by the Western and Northern Alliance forces left much to be desired. The country was strategically ringed by establishing air bases in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, but the inner circle was not contemplated to encircle and trap the leaders and fighters of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Probably avoidance of boots on ground to avoid casualties hindered this option.

 

It was a frontal invasion from the north by the Northern Alliance troops under the umbrella of airpower. Gigantic carpet bombing was carried out recklessly. With their rear areas safe, the defenders first withdrew to the caves of Tora Bora with ease, and then slipped into FATA. No effort was made to circle Tora Bora where all the wanted elements including OBL were present. Emphasis was on dropping tons and tons of molten lava from the air.

 

No effort was made to seal the porous and vulnerable border with Pakistan, again due to shortage of troops. Whole reliance was on Pakistan but it had to be a collective effort to make the concept of anvil and hammer successful. The reason was that the US wanted the border with Pakistan to remain open for clandestine use by the RAW-NDS. That’s why the Kabul regime and the US strongly objected to fencing of western border by Pakistan.

 

The ISAF made up of 48 military contingents including 28 from NATO fought the war without initial battle inoculation, and acquisition of basic knowledge of geography, terrain, culture of tribes, meaning of Pashtunwali, and training in guerrilla warfare. No motivational training was given to the troops to inculcate in them the will to fight and die. Except for top commanders, none knew the aims and objectives of the war.

 

Opening of the second front in Iraq in 2003 when the Afghan front was fluid, indulgence in covert wars, and hybrid war were at the cost of consolidating gains in Afghanistan through development and education. Only important capitals were finely developed while the vast rural areas were neglected.  The two-front war resulted in distraction and division of resources and enabled the Taliban to bounce back in 2006.     

 

The real war started in 2009 after the two troop surges swelling the combat strength of the ISAF from 8000 to 1, 40,000, but Gen McChrystal lost heart in the first major offensive in Helmand due to heavy casualties of the ISAF. 

 

Biggest mistake made was when the ISAF troops were withdrawn backwards and bunkered in the safety of 8 military bases in capital cities in 2009. The entire rural belt in the eastern and southern Afghanistan was vacated thereby allowing the Taliban to gain initiative and a military edge over the occupiers and their collaborators.

 

Obama should have exited from Afghanistan after he concluded that it was an unwinnable war, and the main mission of killing OBL and professed destruction of Al-Qaeda had been accomplished. Clinging on to Afghanistan for next nine years on the insistence of Pentagon and Resolute Support Mission commanders was militarily unsound. This inordinate delay swelled the avoidable human and financial losses of occupational troops as well as of the ANSF and the civilians.  

 

The next mistake made by Obama was his broadcasted plan to withdraw troops by Dec 2014. The thinning out started in July 2011 and by 2013 frontline security was handed over to the ANA. It demoralized the ANA, snatched the fighting spirit of the ISAF whose troops wanted to return home alive and in one piece, spurred the Taliban and they stepped up their offensive. Their momentum accelerated from 2015. From that time onwards, the US for all practical purposes had lost the war, but due to pressure from the Pentagon, the US kept reinforcing failure.

 

To avoid body bags, Obama introduced the deadly pilotless drones as a choice weapon of war. Disproportionate use of drones was cowardly and unethical.

 

The US didn’t seriously negotiate with the Taliban between 2006 and 2014 when it was strong on ground and became serious in 2018-19 when it had become weak.

 

The decentralized Taliban field commanders under one Ameerul Momenein Mullah Omar outclassed the ISAF commanders in strategy and tactics. No change came in their vigor under Mullah Mansour and incumbent Mullah Haibatullah. New recruits kept getting enrolled and the numbers swelled. 

 

The US spent more time on blame game rather than focusing on its primary mission of stabilizing Afghanistan. By blaming Pakistan, Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura for its political and military failures, the US tried to cover up its fault lines. This blame-game continued even after all the terrorist groups were flushed out of FATA in 2015   

 

Trump tried to salvage the fast deteriorating security situation but failed and ultimately had to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban at Doha in February 2019. All foreign troops were to withdraw by May 2021. That was another turning point in the fortunes of the Taliban since the historic agreement had given them recognition and enhanced their stature internationally. 

 

Yet another defining moment came when Joe Biden announced on April 14, 2021 that the longest war will be winded up and all foreign troops would pull out by Sept 11, 2021. This date was advanced to August 31.

 

All roads in Afghanistan were opened for the triumphant Taliban to race forward and capture as much territory in May, June and July. With 80% territory and most trade transit points in the control of the Taliban, the final phase to capture cities that are already under their siege is likely to start after August 31, or Sept 11. For the ANA, the summer period up to Oct/early November is tough.

 

Endgame

 

In the endgame, the losers have suddenly changed their stance from a military solution to a peaceful solution of the tangle. Their narrative of blaming Pakistan for the instability in Afghanistan has been modified and now the Taliban are painted as violence prone and anti-peace.

 

While the winning Taliban have expressed their willingness to accommodate all less Ashraf Ghani (AG) and his team, the US and the whole world in general including Pakistan are standing behind the unpopular regime in Kabul and are pressuring Taliban to share power with AG and accept him as the elected president till next elections. The spoilers as well as others are also against the basic demand of the Taliban to establish Islamic Emirate.

 

This change of narrative clubbed with a petrifying story that there will be chaos, prolonged civil war, bloodshed and refugee exodus due to Taliban’s obstinacy and fancy for bloodletting, has drifted the attention of the world from the stupefying victory of the Taliban and disgraceful defeat and abrupt exit of the US forces. Whole focus has shifted to the future horrid scenario of Afghanistan based on premeditated assumptions.

 

For 20 years the world quietly stomached the brutalities of the mad adventurers wanting to bludgeon Al-Qaeda and the Taliban without a murmur. A minority government of non-Pashtuns remained in power and the majority Pashtuns remained in the backwoods. 

 

And now when the Taliban are getting closer to regain power which was illegally snatched from them, the world led by the spoilers of peace are giving sermons of peace to the winners and advising them that there is no military solution to Afghan crisis.

 

The infatuation of the US for the puppet regime in Kabul is so passionate that the US has announced its full diplomatic and financial support to it and air support to the shaky ANA. While Pakistan is in two minds, China is unhesitant in extending full support to the Taliban and to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan.

 

                                 

 

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Why Trump’s Troubling Pakistan Policy Dooms Afghanistan Peace By Touqir Hussain The Diplomat

The Diplomat

The Diplomat

Why Trump’s Troubling Pakistan Policy Dooms Afghanistan Peace

The administration’s approach to Islamabad undermines potential solutions in Afghanistan.

By Touqir Hussain
February 15, 2018 
 

For a 16-year-long war in Afghanistan, whose failure lies in an endless list of complex causes – including flawed strategy, incoherent war aims, return of the warlords, rise of fiefdoms and ungoverned spaces, corruption, power struggles and a competitive and conflict-prone regional environment – U.S. President Donald Trump has one simple solution: get rid of the Haqqani Network and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And if Pakistan does not oblige, cut off aid.

Like the Afghanistan war, the equally complicated U.S.-Pakistan relationship is also being narrowly defined, thereby obscuring the many different ways it can serve or hurt the very American interests that the Trump administration is trying to serve.

It is certainly true that Pakistan has a lot to answer for, especially for its illicit relationship with the Taliban. But sanctuaries did not play a defining role in the war’s failure, nor will their eradication, if they still exist, play a salient part in its success.
Sixteen years into the war, which has been described as “16 one year wars,” Washington has shown no better understanding of the complexities of Afghanistan and the region than when it invaded the country in 2001. Some understanding of what has gone wrong might help us find the way forward.

The War in Afghanistan: What Went Wrong

It was a war that may not have been unnecessary but was nonetheless possibly avoidable. It has been an unwinnable war in the way it has been conducted, especially given the realities of a strife-torn country wracked by multiple conflicts since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973.  The 1980s war against the Soviets and the subsequent civil war had raised the profile of the mullah and jihad and changed not only Afghanistan but also the adjoining tribal territories in Pakistan. Home to millions of Afghan refugees and base to mujaheddin, these territories almost became like one country along with the areas across the Afghan border.

Pakistan’s heartland too was affected by the religious infrastructure spawned by the 1980s war and by Islamabad’s own follies,  to which Washington made no small contribution, first through the ISI- and CIA-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, and then by sanctioning Pakistan in 1990 and leaving it to its own devices. The Taliban were an extension of this slow unravelling of Afghanistan, and strategic overreach of the Pakistan army and societal changes in the country.

Former President George W. Bush made grievous mistakes upon America’s return to Afghanistan. He showed no understanding of what had been going on in and around Afghanistan since Washington’s last exit. It was a strategic mistake to try to defeat al-Qaeda by defeating Taliban who were not going to fight but instead run away to Pakistan. The focus should have been on al-Qaeda. The context of dealing with the Taliban was fixing fractured Afghanistan through reconstruction and stabilization of the country with a new ethnic-regional balance acceptable to all the Afghans. That is what you call nation-building. But Washington, of course, would have none of that.

Instead, Bush outsourced much of the war to warlords and rushed to institute democracy, guided by the need to get domestic support for the war and by a flawed view that democracy is nation-building. Actually, democracy and nation-building are two separate challenges, with one sometimes reinforcing the other but not always.

In Afghanistan, democracy did not help. It made Karzai dependent on the political support of warlords and regional power brokers, the very people who had brought Afghanistan to grief in the 1990s. This led to payoffs, corruption, a drug mafia, power struggles, and bad governance, facilitating the return of the Taliban which led a resistance that was a part insurgency, part jihad, and part civil-war. And by creating a dual authority – their own and that of the Afghan government – Americans set up a perfect scenario for clash of personalities, policies and interests, making for a poor war strategy.

 

 

 

 

While Bush went on to fight another war, for his successor, it was a story of dealing with his deeply conflicted approach to the war where policy and legacy collided. Indeed the policymaking itself was not without its own conflicts, strife-torn as it was by turf wars, interagency rivalries and bureaucratic tensions.

The Trump Strategy

Now Trump is seeking a military solution to the conflict. There is a talk of a political solution, but that seems to be just a Plan B in case the military option fails. The suspension of aid to Pakistan is aimed at pressuring Islamabad to help Washington defeat the Taliban. But Pakistan is finding it hard to oblige without relinquishing its national interests in favour of U.S. aid, and that too in the face of public humiliation by Trump. It certainly will not do so in this election year, and not in an atmosphere where Pakistan sees the Indian threat having doubled with India’s increased presence in Afghanistan from where it is allegedly helping orchestrate terrorist attacks on Pakistan. If anything, this should enhance Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban, which may be demonstrating their value as an ally with the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Kabul.

The Taliban are the biggest card Pakistan has to secure its interests in Afghanistan, and it would not give it up easily unless it knows what comes next.  Pakistan also feels the U.S. strategy would not succeed and may in fact backfire. A disinherited Taliban on a retreat from Afghanistan would be a much greater threat to Pakistan and to the United States, especially if the Taliban joins forces with other jihadist and Islamist groups.

The Washington-Islamabad standoff thus continues. Pakistan feels it can take the heat, and that if Washington dials up the pressure, it would fall back on China. Washington thus has to consider the geostrategic implications carefully in this respect.

The China Factor

A Pakistan closely aligned with China could conceivably take a harder line against India. If the United States continues to see China as a threat and India as a balancer, what would serve American interests better: an India whose resources are divided by a two-front deployment, or one that has friendly relations with Pakistan? For that, Washington should not burn its bridges with Islamabad.

A relationship with Pakistan would also give the United States leverage against India. Furthermore, it will be useful to have Pakistan on its side in a region that is increasingly coming under the strategic shadow of Russia and the creeping influence of Iran. Most importantly, Pakistan’s role remains critical in stabilizing Afghanistan, and in helping Washington’s counterterrorism efforts.

A Political Solution?

After considering all other options, the discussion always reverts to the talk of a political solution. But the irony is such a solution remains as elusive as the military one. How do you have power-sharing or coexistence when the Kabul government and the Taliban subscribe to two different political systems? And if instead of sharing it, you divide power by relinquishing the governance of some areas to the Taliban rule, are you not consigning the populations to the Middle Ages?

Pakistan has a limited influence to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and has little incentive to do so when there is lack of clarity about American policy and Pakistan’s own relations with Washington are strained. The upshot is that Taliban themselves are divided. Some are irreconcilable, but those who want peace worry that if they do lay down the arms and accept a deal while the American forces are still there, they might be shortchanged.

The Taliban trust China and its guarantees that they would not be betrayed. But the Chinese need support from Washington and Kabul. The Quadrilateral Consultative Group process offered the prospect of such a support.  But the Trump administration prefers military option and going it alone, and that also suits Kabul: this way, at least the Americans will likely stay for the long haul.

What is needed is a new relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Only Kabul and Islamabad together can deal with the Taliban, politically if possible, and militarily if necessary. Counterinsurgencies are essentially a governance issue. Afghanistan needs to conciliate the areas under the Taliban control, and Pakistan should help by making its lands inhospitable to them. And both must work on joint border management and resolution of the refugee problem. This is a long-term plan, but it is doable. U.S. engagement with them would be essential to their success, as would be China’s involvement.

But the Trump administration is not thinking in these terms. Instead, Trump has defined the Afghanistan war very narrowly and in immediate terms as a terrorism problem. American soldiers under attack from sanctuaries in Pakistan, rather than the war itself, preoccupies the Trump base. As for the military, it is only thinking of the military solution, and that also highlights the sanctuaries issue. So, right now, U.S. Pakistan relations are stuck, which makes the prospects of any political solution in Afghanistan quite dim.

Touqir Hussain, a former ambassador of Pakistan and diplomatic adviser to the Prime Minister, is adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and Syracuse University.

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Beware Americans Bearing Gifts: NGOs as Trojan Horses Corbett Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware Americans Bearing Gifts: NGOs as Trojan Horses

 • 08/09/2015 • 

Kazakhstan is stripping USAID workers of their diplomatic immunity. China has passed a law strictly regulating foreign NGOs. Russia has just officially declared the National Endowment for Democracy to be an undesirable NGO. India has placed the Ford Foundation on a security watchlist. What on earth is going on? Why is country after country restricting, limiting or kicking out these US-based aid agencies and tearing up decades-old cooperation treaties? Could it be that these NGOs are not what they appear to be on the surface? Of course, it could, and in this week’s subscriber newsletter James outlines precisely how these organizations have been used as a Trojan horse to undermine governments around the globe for over half a century.

For free access to this, and all of James’ subscriber editorials, please go to www.theinternationalforecaster.com

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NADRAGate: The terrifying cable that should not be ignored by Waqas Ahmed

 NADRAGate: The terrifying cable that should not be ignored  

by  

Waqas Ahmed

Daily Pakistan

 

Cablegate

In 2010-11, Wikileaks released a trove of classified US govt data which consisted of communications between Washington and her embassies worldwide – this was called Cablegate. Cablegate consisted of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables – an overwhelming amount of data. In the same year (2011) Pakistani journalists published a story about one cable of particular interest: #09ISLAMABAD1642_a, classified ‘secret’ by US govt.

There was some noise about this cable back then, but the public quickly forgot it and it remained forgotten till a few days ago when Wikileaks tweeted about it and reminded us.

This particular cable details a series of meetings held in 2009 between the then Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, the President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani with US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. The purpose of these meetings, from the US side at least, was to “Offer DHS assistance to enhance Pakistan’s border security and [seek] GOP views on an arrangement under which DHS would provide the Government of Pakistan (GOP) with technology to access and analyze Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data on passengers flying to and from Pakistan, in return for DHS getting access to the data.

What is API and PNR?

Advance Passenger Information is, in simple terms, information about the passenger who is travelling overseas. Suppose you are travelling to UAE, a country that requires API from Pakistani passengers, you will need to provide the following data about yourself prior to boarding your flight:

  • Full name
  • Passport number, issuing country, and expiration date
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality

This information will be connected to your PNR, which is a unique ID identifying you as a passenger on a flight. This information will be received by your destination country so they could investigate your past criminal history (if any) before they allow you in that country. To do that, they will use your API information to search their own country’s database and check if you are clean or not. Without connecting API to the database of a host country, API is useless.

United States DHS, in the cable under discussion, wanted to provide us with such a tool which would connect API to NADRA database for the purpose of analysis, and in theory give us a heads-up if a terrorist was travelling to or from our country. United States, it seems benevolently, wanted to give us this technology for free – with only one catch: they would be able to access the data from our side. And not just the data of passengers travelling from US to Pakistan or vice versa, they would be able to access data of passengers from all countries going to and from Pakistan. To make it all useful, the API technology would have to be connected to NADRA database, therefore, in a way US would also get an interface to NADRA database.

Why was US pushing for API technology?

US was pushing Pakistan to install this technology for the obvious reason that they wanted the data. It is a good rule-of-thumb to remember that if something supposedly valuable is being given to you for free, you must be doubly suspicious.

But there was something else that was going on at that time.

At that time Pakistan was in the process of phasing out an old system provided to NADRA by an American company for a similar purpose. That system was called ‘Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES)’. NADRA aimed to phase out that system by 2011 and instead install a new indigenously made one: Integrated Border Management System (IBMS).

PISCES was installed in 1999-2002, when Lt Gen (r) Moinuddin Haider was the interior Minister under Musharraf’s govt. But listen to this: While IBMS cost us around Rs421 million to implement, PISCES was free. Why?

Here is a clue: PISCES was made by US firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Booz Allen Hamilton was Snowden’s employer for those of you who can’t recall where you heard that name. Booz Allen Hamilton was an NSA contractor and that is enough to reach the conclusion that PISCES had a backdoor that allowed US to access all Pakistani data connected to it. Moinuddin Haider rubbished, at that time, any claims that PISCES had a backdoor – but in hindsight after Snowden leaks, it is highly improbable that PISCES was clean. Another clue is that US State dept wanted to give us $42 million (free) to upgrade and maintain PISCES and abandon all attempts to make something similar on our own. Here is an Express Tribune article (which was affiliated with New York Times at that time) telling us why IBMS sucks in comparison to PISCES.

The shady dealings with PPP govt

When US was pushing API on us, we were getting rid of PISCES, and I suspect, it was because of this exact reason API was being pushed on us.

How did the PPP-led govt react to that? While the behavior of PPP govt remains highly suspect, we can see in the same cable that Rehman Malik was being very slippery in his dealings with Ms. Napolitano.

According to the cable: On API/PNR, Interior Minister Malik assured the Secretary privately that the GOP wanted to be helpful, but in the meeting with his subordinates asked for information on model agreements, legal frameworks and precedents the Ministry could use to persuade those in the GOP worried about privacy rights and possible legal challenges in the courts to API/PNR data sharing. The GOP agreed to host future DHS visitors to continue discussions on API/PNR and border security. It is obvious that while Rehman Malik was being cooperative in front of US govt, he also wanted to protect his own behind and was trying to be extremely careful.

Not only that, the PPP govt at every turn tried to get something out of the US in return and in a way put a price on the private data of Pakistani citizens. In every meeting they tried to couple PNR/API issue with: Pakistani textile exports to US, non-stop PIA flights to US, and a few hundred Pakistani students receiving scholarships in the US. Rehman Malik also tried to make excuses by saying that overreaching Pakistani judiciary would never allow such a thing.

On the other hand Napolitano was even more stubborn:
Secretary Napolitano responded that the United States now wishes to deal with non-stop flights separately from the issue of API/PNR data exchange, and explained that enhanced access to API/PNR data is of direct benefit to Pakistan as well as to the United States. Prime Minister Gilani echoed Zardari’s comments on PNR, stating that, although the Interior Ministry is considering the U.S. request, to “do the whole world” will be difficult. To Gilani’s statement that Pakistan had been promised non-stop flights in return for buying Boeing aircraft in 2004, Secretary Napolitano was clear that flights will be dealt with as a separate issue, not as an exchange.

While in all these discussions the pretext is Pakistani border security, it is obvious that both parties know exactly what is going on: That US wants Pakistani data, and Pakistan, while not unwilling to provide access to that data, wants a ‘consideration’, i.e something in return. And without any potential political blowback.

Make no mistake, at no point did Rehman Malik or Gilani or Zardari say an outright “NO”. They wanted to put some sort of price on this invaluable data, something that would protect them from political repercussions. However, it seems that these discussions did not bear any fruits at that time. We don’t know the reason – there is no cable that follows up on this one.

Enter another shadowy company: International Identity Services (IIS)

On September 6, 2011 The News published a report that NADRA was out sourcing its UK operations to a private company. This news in itself would’ve been outrageous but the details were even more so: IIS was headed by an unnamed person with a criminal history. Not only that, but NADRA officials maintained that NADRA was working with the company since 2009, when in fact IIS was created the very same year, and maybe for the very same purpose.

IIS was formed in 2009, and closed its operations in just 5 years.
IIS was formed in 2009, and closed its operations in just 5 years.

There could be two reasons for such a discrepancy: Either some officials at NADRA or Interior Ministry were planning to receive kickbacks from that company made by someone close to them, or this company was a front for NSA/CIA/GCHQ. IIS, even more suspiciously, stopped its operations in 2014 – in just 5 years and disappeared off the face of this earth.

Is NADRA data safe?

In short: NO, NADRA data is not safe. Even one outsourced company or country that can access NADRA database through any interface can potentially steal the whole database. They might not even have to steal because we have people in our government, supposedly custodians of our national interests, willing to sell such invaluable national asset such as the database of the whole populace in exchange for pennies then all bets are off. We do not know, and we may never know, how much of our data has been compromised. But one thing we know for sure is that we cannot trust our government, elected or otherwise.

One thing we see in the cable is that Rehman Malik and Co, were afraid of public outrage. When this cable first surfaced, there was little to no great public backlash. If there is no adverse reaction, future governments may get bold. Let’s make sure that there is no such misunderstanding between public representatives and the public. Wikileaks has given us another chance to consider our reactions against those who claim to represent us but actually do not. Let’s give it to them.

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed is Editor, Digital Media, at Daily Pakistan Global. You can reach him at waqas@dailypakistan.com.pk

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