The Cable

Pakistani envoy rejects Wikileaks Afghan war information

Reams of classified U.S. reports claiming evidence that Pakistan’s top military intelligence service is playing both sides of the Afghanistan war should not be taken at face value, Islamabad’s envoy to Washington is warning. "These reports reflect nothing more than single-source comments and rumors, which abound on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and are ...

Reams of classified U.S. reports claiming evidence that Pakistan’s top military intelligence service is playing both sides of the Afghanistan war should not be taken at face value, Islamabad’s envoy to Washington is warning.

"These reports reflect nothing more than single-source comments and rumors, which abound on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and are often proved wrong after deeper examination," Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said in a statement.

Calling the publication of nearly 92,000 classified reports by the whistleblower website Wikileaks "irresponsible," Haqqani said, "Pakistan’s government under the democratically elected leadership of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani is following a clearly laid out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists and our military and intelligence services are effectively executing that policy. The documents circulated by Wikileaks do not reflect the current onground realities. The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are strategic partners and are jointly endeavoring to defeat Al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies militarily and politically." 

Haqqani is referring to one of only several themes that emerge upon examination of the leaked reports, which were published in coordination with the New York Times, Britain.’s Guardian newspaper, and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

The Times focuses on the alleged role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate in working with the Afghan insurgency, including al Qaeda, as well as its alleged role in planning attacks inside Afghanistan, including the deadly suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The frustration of American officials at the ISI’s failure to confront Afghan militants is peppered throughout the reports.

The Guardian took the data from the reports and organized it so it could be easily understood by the general public. In its story on the ISI, the paper pointed to several alleged but unproven instances where the ISI may have been involved in activities directly opposed to coalition efforts. For example, one report alleged that the ISI was offering to pay up to $30,000 for the killing of Indian road workers inside Afghanistan. Another report accused the ISI of using children as suicide bombers. A third said that the ISI might be exporting poisoned alcohol to Afghanistan to surreptitiously kill coalition troops.

All of the coverage notes that the reports represent single-sourced information that was largely impossible to verify and often totally implausible. Nevertheless, the White House was in full damage-control mode Sunday evening, trying to spin the release of the documents while admonishing Wikileaks for exposing them.

"These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people," National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones said in an emailed statement Sunday evening. He also pointed out that most of the leaked reports were from the time before President Obama initiated his new Afghan strategy and troop surge.

"Since 2009, the United States and Pakistan have deepened our important bilateral partnership. Counter-terrorism cooperation has led to significant blows against al Qaeda’s leadership. The Pakistani military has gone on the offensive in Swat and South Waziristan, at great cost to the Pakistani military and people," Jones said. "Yet the Pakistani government – and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services – must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups… U.S. support for Pakistan will continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups, while supporting the aspirations of the Pakistani people."

The White House also sent out a memo to reporters with "a few thoughts about these stories on background."

1) I don’t think anyone who follows this issue will find it surprising that there are concerns about ISI and safe havens in Pakistan. In fact, we’ve said as much repeatedly and on the record. Attached please find a document with some relevant quotes from senior USG officials.

2) The period of time covered in these documents (January 2004-December 2009) is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.

3) Note the interesting graphs (pasted below) from the Guardian’s wikileaks story. I think they help put these documents in context.

4) As you report on this issue, it’s worth noting that wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes US policy in Afghanistan.

Despite the questionable validity of the information in the reports, there are already signs that lawmakers are taking the revelations seriously.

"However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA. "Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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