The American and Pakistani world turned on its head with WikiLeaks this monday. This is just the tip of the iceberg says WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange. This has started an intense debate across the globe on whether the leaks are a way to correct the wrongs or a grave danger to National security.
It depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on. For America it is embarrasing, for Pakistan a vehement no no and Afghanistan is shocked at the revelations. The New York Times reported on Sunday that military field documents included in the leak by wikiLeaks.org suggest that Pakistan, an ally of the United States in the war against terror, has been running something of a “double game”, allowing “representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.”
Washington is blindly paying Pakistan massive amounts of money for access to Afghanistan even as Islamabad uses its spy agency, ISI, to plot the death of American and NATO troops, allied Indian personnel, and undermines US policy. The website charged that Washington needed to deal with Pakistani intelligence, the ISI. “There should be serious action taken against the ISI, who has a direct connection with the terrorists,”. “These reports show that the U.S. was already aware of the ISI connection with the al Qaeda terrorist network. The United States is overdue on the ISI issue and now the United States should answer.”
The Afghan Response
“The Afghan government is shocked with the report that has opened the reality of the Afghan war,” said Siamak Herawi, a government spokesman. Herawi focused on the allegation that Pakistan was secretly supporting al Qaeda and asserted that Washington needs to deal with ISI. “There should be serious action taken against the ISI, who has a direct connection with the terrorists,” he said. “These reports show that the U.S. was already aware of the ISI connection with the al Qaeda terrorist network. The United States is overdue on the ISI issue, and now the United States should answer.”
The Pakistani First Take
General Hamid Gul, known as the father of Taliban and former head of ISI rubbished the reports and said that there was no truth in these motivated reports.
Incidently General Gul figures prominently in alleged ISI role in supporting various Taliban networks in Afghanistan supporting the larger Pakistani cause. On the official side Pakistan has termed the reports baseless and has argued that Pakistan has no links with al Qaida.
“Pakistan’s government under the democratically elected leadership of President Zardari and Prime Minister [Yousuf Raza] Gilani is following a clearly laid out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists, and our military and intelligence services are effectively executing that policy,” a statement of the Pakistan ambassador to USA stated. “If someone has any evidence, it should be brought to us, and we will take action,” the report said. “The Pakistani military, especially the ISI, has sacrificed more than any other forces in the war on terrorism.”
The US Stance
US strategic circles, senators and Pentagon are busy extinguishing the fire the leaks have generated. There are views from both side of the fence, arguments and counterarguments go to prove only one thing – the American house in Afghanistan is not in order.
The most interesting revelation comes from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton,”These leaked documents, while troubling, appear to support what I was asserting for years: The war in Afghanistan was not going well, and we needed a real strategy for success. For nearly a decade under the previous administration, our brave war fighters were under-resourced and lacked the direction of a clear strategy. Under the new counterinsurgency strategy implemented earlier this year, we now have the pieces in place to turn things around. These leaked reports pre-date our new strategy in Afghanistan and should not be used as a measure of success or a determining factor in our continued mission there.”
On Pakistan’s support to Afghan Taliban he articulated that there was a forward movement,”While we still have concerns about Pakistan’s efforts against the Afghan Taliban, there is no doubt that there have been significant improvements in its overall effort.” Clearly an attempt to pre-date and pass off the blame to the Bush administration.
In addition, these leaks have sparked off a debate about the impact of such leaks on National Security and whether they should be allowed.
Considering that these reports covered the period between 2004 and 2009 and that they are just the tip f the iceberg, establishment of ISI and Pakistani role in playing a double game in Afghanistan stands established without doubt. No Afghan watcher had any doubts about Pakistan’s dubious role in Afghanistan but this confirms our worst fears. A CIA – ISI nexus to subvert the Afghanistan based geopolitical process for marginal strategic gains by both sides. These leaks have substantiated what a lot of people have suspected about many situations.
For instance, this allegation that the Pakistani intelligence service – the Inter-Services Intelligence – has been supporting the Taliban fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It has been known for a long time that Pakistan sees huge importance in having a government that supports it in Afghanistan. They fear India on the other side of the border and therefore they want a friendly government on the other side of the country.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been drawing comparisons to the Vietnam War for many years, and WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 90,000 government documents about the war in Afghanistan will give more credence to that comparison. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower responsible for leaking the U.S. government’s top-secret study on the Vietnam War in 1971, says that like the Pentagon Papers, these documents will not justify the ongoing war.
“I think what the Pentagon Papers showed with 7,000 pages was that there was a lack of any good reason for doing what we were doing,” Ellsberg told CNN. “My strong expectation is these 92,000 pages will not convey any good reason for the dying and killing and the enormous money we’re spending over there in a time we cannot afford it.” These are things that have been discussed before. These are things that have been suspected; now there is some factual evidence about them. What they’ve been able to do – and this is just the tip of the iceberg because nobody has had time top go through all 92,000 of them – is to make a comparison with some of these individual documents and then the information and reporting that came out in the subsequent days after those documents were filed.
What they’re able to show is that there is sometimes a discrepancy, or there is sometimes some very revealing information. So it’s in those small details that you really see how the war is being played out. That’s what WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange wants to do. He wants to put that out in the public domain. It is too early to determine the full impact of the leaks, we expect more fireworks.