Leading senators lash out at Pakistan, Obama’s withdrawal date
The leak of tens of thousands of classified war reports to self-styled whistleblower website WikiLeaks was very damaging to U.S. national security and raises deep concerns about Pakistan’s actions, according to the Senate’s top Democrat on intelligence matters. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said Tuesday she was shocked by the allegations in the ...
The leak of tens of thousands of classified war reports to self-styled whistleblower website WikiLeaks was very damaging to U.S. national security and raises deep concerns about Pakistan's actions, according to the Senate's top Democrat on intelligence matters.
The leak of tens of thousands of classified war reports to self-styled whistleblower website WikiLeaks was very damaging to U.S. national security and raises deep concerns about Pakistan’s actions, according to the Senate’s top Democrat on intelligence matters.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said Tuesday she was shocked by the allegations in the leaked reports that elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate were directly involved in attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"We need to find out if it’s true," she told The Cable in an interview. "The suspicion is that it may well be true."
Feinstein said she doesn’t believe that illicit activities by elements of the Pakistan government, such as those alleged in the reports, are things of the past. She also warned that generous U.S. support for Pakistan could be vulnerable due to such activities.
"Do the Pakistanis work both sides of the street? Yes I think so," she said. "Pakistan has to make up its mind; it has to go one way or the other. And I don’t think it can keep the United States doing its hard work for it if it isn’t going to be supportive."
As for the seriousness of the WikiLeaks disclosures, Feinstein broke from the Obama administration’s contention that there were no real revelations in the reports and therefore there should be no real harm to the war effort.
"It’s very serious. It’s hard to believe it actually happened because of the size of it," Feinstein said. "It was a concentrated effort to take documents and messages that were classified and just dump them out there without any care or concern over violating the law or what effect it would have on national security."
WikiLeaks claims to be withholding a further 15,000 documents out of respect for its source’s concern about disclosures that could put sources and methods in jeopardy.
Earlier Tuesday, President Obama himself downplayed the information in the leaked reports, saying the document dump "doesn’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our debate on Afghanistan."
Other senior Democrats on Capitol Hill Tuesday said they weren’t shocked by the reports.
"I don’t share her shock," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, told The Cable, referring to Feinstein. "It reinforces what I and many others know has been the case, which is that there have been some playing both sides in the Pakistani intelligence services. There’s been a belief that’s been the case for some time and this reinforces it."
But like Feinstein, Levin is extremely critical of how the Pakistani government is carrying out its war against the insurgents in its midst.
"The Pakistanis have not gone after the Haqqani network, which is in North Waziristan; they have not gone after the Quetta Shura, which is openly operating in Quetta." he said. "They know where they are at. They have not taken strong action against terrorists who operate outside of Pakistan."
He said that U.S. economic support funds for Pakistan could be tied into the congressional concerns over the issue.
Senior Republican senators continued to criticize the leakers and WikiLeaks for publishing the reports, while moving to tie the incident to their long held criticism of Obama’s July 11, 2011, date to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"We need Pakistan’s help to rid the region of the Taliban, but for that to happen we must convince the Pakistanis and the Afghans that we won’t abandon them — and with President Obama’s call for an arbitrary withdrawal date that’s a hard sell," Feinstein’s committee counterpart Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO, told The Cable.
Levin’s counterpart on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, said in an interview that the effort to convince both Pakistan and Afghanistan to commit to the fight against the Taliban was being undermined by their shared perception that America is on the way out.
"The ISI is maintaining ties with the Taliban. That’s exacerbated by the fact that we’ve said we’re going to leave in the middle of next year. There are many countries and factions that are hedging their bets and accommodating for that eventuality," he said.
Even if Obama doesn’t intend to pursue big withdrawals quickly, the date is being used by America’s enemies to convince Afghan locals not to risk their lives and side with the U.S., according to McCain, who recently traveled to the Afghanistan.
"It hurts us across the board all over the region," he said.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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