The New York Times reports that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has detained several Pakistani informants, including an army major, who assisted the CIA ahead of the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden outside Islamabad.
The news complicates the Obama administration’s efforts to reset its troubled relationship with Islamabad, and has infuriated Congress, which now threatens to slash its multi-billion dollar aid package for Pakistan. The arrests are just the latest sign that the Pakistani military and intelligence seek to restrain U.S. intelligence and counterterror activities inside Pakistan, rather than to help capture other senior al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders operating freely inside the country.
Recently, the ISI has ceased surveillance assistance for the CIA, denied American intelligence officials visas, and threatened to stop U.S. drone attacks. It is then no surprise that CIA deputy director Michael J. Morell last week rated Pakistan’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States three out of ten, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier described U.S. relations with Pakistan as a “troubled marriage.”
The arrests come in the wake of reports that the U.S. twice in recent weeks provided the ISI with information about terrorist bomb-making factories inside Pakistan, only to see the militants vacate the sites before the Pakistani army conducted a raid — indicating that the ISI had tipped off its terrorist allies.
Pakistan ostensibly joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. But its intelligence agency has not only continued to shelter and support terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e Tayyiba on Pakistani soil, but also has been complicit in major terrorist attacks abroad, such as the terrorist bombings in Mumbai and attacks against the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008. In fall 2006, a leaked report by a British Defense Ministry think tank charged that Pakistan through the ISI had been supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda and should be dismantled. Unless Pakistan either disbands the ISI or bring it under complete civilian control, terrorism will continue to flourish in Pakistan and destabilize the region.