Pointing guns and stroking backs

The implications of Pakistan’s power triangle

Those who follow Pakistan are familiar with the metaphor that describes that country as “negotiating with a gun to its own head.” Here’s an update: it’s now run by three power centres—the military establishment, the higher judiciary and the civilian government—, where one holds a gun to the another’s head, while not so subtly stroking the back of the third. That makes the drama complex and absorbing, but the upshots for the rest of us are simple.

First, you can’t deal with Pakistan any more. You need to deal with bits, pieces, factions and quarters of Pakistan. Since none of them has the power to see through whatever they might agree, any commitment or deal they make involves, shall we say, immense counter-party risks. In other words, it means they are not worth the paper they are printed on. Whether it’s the IMF dealing with the Pakistani treasury apparatus, or the Indian commerce ministry discussing trade with its Pakistani counterpart or the United States government working on a deal over Afghanistan, there’s no guarantee that the Pakistani side is in a position to see through its end of the bargain. The only reason to persist is perhaps because, well, “the show has to go on.”

Second, the civilian government has neither any control over Pakistan’s foreign and security policies nor has any real means to bring terrorists to justice. The military establishment controls the former and the higher judiciary controls the latter. There is a degree of tacit but not-so-subtle complicity between the two. In other words the military-jihadi complex not only remain in charge but now has a lot more latitude because there are fewer pretenses to keep and fig leaves to hold up. The complex has also regained narrative dominance. To the extent that the presence of US and international forces in Afghanistan keeps the Pakistani army strategically focused on that front, General Kayani and his colleagues are unlikely to want to escalate tensions with India through renewed terrorist or insurgent attacks.

Third, while the general view is that the US-Pakistani alliance is over, it is difficult to shake-off the perception that Washington has decided to work with the Pakistani military establishment rather than strengthen the hands of the civilian government. Therefore, at a critical juncture in Pakistan’s history, Washington has again let go of an opportunity to put the military monster back in the pen. There are good excuses for this, but as much as they are good, they are still excuses.

This does not mean that President Asif Zardari will lose and General Kayani will win decisively. On the contrary, Mr Zardari might be considered to have won if he and his government just survive in office for their term. General Kayani, on the other hand, needs to meet the standards set by his successful coup-making predecessors. That is not a victory for democracy. It is at best an establishment of a new, tenuous distribution of power which, as described above, involves gun-pointing and back-stroking.

What should we make of Memogate?

A bold move to weaken the Pakistani military-jihadi complex backfires

It was a risky enterprise, but the opportunity was unprecedented. Whether or not there was actually a risk of an overt military coup in the early days of May 2011, after the US military raid killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, it nevertheless opened up a window of opportunity to kick the Pakistani military establishment when it was down. The public image of the army as an institution was down. This was different from the previous low of 2007, when the army’s unpopularity was linked to General Musharraf’s person and regime. Getting rid of General Musharraf allowed the army to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the Pakistani public, and creating war hysteria following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 restored its position at the apex of power.

However in the first week of May this year, merely getting rid one or two top generals was unlikely to save the army’s reputation. In fact, it would perhaps have led to calls for more, with the Pakistani elite—in their typical bandwagoning fashion—calling for more heads to roll. The military establishment got out of this hole by floating the ‘ghairat’ balloon, creating a confrontation with the United States and letting Imran Khan become a lightning rod for popular sentiment. But we digress. The point is that in May 2011, it was possible for bold political entrepreneurs to make an attempt to go one-up on the military establishment. There are two broad explanations of what happened next.

Here’s the first one. We do not know who those bold political entrepreneurs were. They could well have been President Asif Zardari, his confidant Ambassador Husain Haqqani (who have both denied this), or some other people whose identity we do not know. It has been asked why they should choose someone like Mansoor Ijaz? Their choice of a mercurial personality with a history of attempting diplomatic bravado and making taller claims about his role is quite understandable. Given the risks of such a manoeuvre—which have since materialised—they needed dollops of plausible deniability. Mansoor Ijaz was actually a good candidate to be the “go-between”, for he had both dubiousness and access to high-level back channels within the US government.

Once the memo was drafted and delivered, Kayani & Co got wind of it—the ISI would be incompetent if it didn’t have people in Washington who would find out about these things—and ‘persuaded’ Mr Ijaz to blow the story in a way that would create maximum damage to the Zardari government. All Mr Ijaz had to do was find some pretext to for his going public with the story (“he was angered by attacks on his reputation”, “he was protecting Admiral Mullen’s reputation” and suchlike).

And here’s the second. The ISI might have set all this up as a sting operation to ensnare Mr Haqqani, destabilise the Zardari government and become the darling of the Pakistani nation. In which case, it would have been Mr Ijaz instigated the move, roped in Mr Haqqani and others, and after the ball was sufficiently into play, gave the game away by writing an op-ed in the Financial Times.

Both these explanations would explain why no less a person than the ISI chief personally went to London to meet Mr Ijaz, and ‘verify’ the evidence. From that point onwards, the broad conclusion—GHQ 1, Zardari 0—was foregone, even if the details—who’d be sacrificed and how—were not. The two explanations are not entirely mutually exclusive. It is quite possible that both games were in play, or one game got mixed up with the other. It might matter to the individuals concerned, but as far as the implications of the affair are concerned, it doesn’t.

What are the implications? While the Zardari government never really wielded any power it has lost a great deal of the legitimacy it had in the eyes of the public. Whatever comes next will stick far more closely to the political and ideological narrative of the military-jihadi complex. General Kayani or a successor would have to be a grand fool to seize power directly—not because Washington won’t condone a dictator, but because he will be forced to take the blame for failing to run a country that is deeply in trouble. So the veneer of civilian government will continue, even as Rawalpindi assumes full control of foreign relations. Mr Haqqani’s embassy was one small island that resisted the military establishment’s line. Now that he’s gone, that bastion too has fallen.

If that’s bad news, here’s something worse. A majority of the Pakistani elite are behind the military establishment on this one. They see civilian politicians seeking US support for putting the army back in the barracks as a treasonous violation of sovereignty. Not so when civilians run to Washington pleading to save the army’s skin after one of its numerous adventures. Not so when military leaders invite Saudi Arabia to arbitrate in domestic politics. Not so when military leaders allow terrorists and militants to seize control of territory and impose their own writ on the people.

The political entrepreneurs who sought US help to acquire power in Islamabad might not have really meant to deliver all the promises they made. Even so, to the extent that there are players in Pakistan who claim to want to dismantle the military-jihadi complex, their interests are aligned with India’s. They lost this round. That is a negative for India, in terms of opportunities lost.

Update: By appointing Sherry Rehman as Mr Haqqani’s replacement, Mr Zardari might have used political judo to equalise the score. Ms Rehman is among the more liberal of Pakistan’s politicians and, as head of the Jinnah Institute, has been in the loop on US-Pakistan relations. She is close to the Bhutto-Zardari family, but before quitting the Zardari-Gilani cabinet in 2009, might have rubbed the president a little too much on the wrong side. Even so, appointing her, rather than someone close to the military establishment, suggests that Mr Zardari did not allow himself to be completely squeezed by General Kayani.

Then again, there more rounds in this game.

The screws, they tighten on Pakistan’s military establishment

Washington is negotiating by other methods

So the Obama administration has announced that it has suspended $800m in aid to the Pakistani military establishment, amounting to around a third of the annual outlay. This is a bold departure from the traditional throw-more-money-at-the-problem approach that has not quite worked for the United States, Pakistan or other countries affected by the depredations of the military-jihadi complex. It does not yet, however, amount to a decision to cut Pakistan loose. (As I advocated in a recent WSJ op-ed).

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, is right when he says a “pause” is not quite the same as “aid cut-off.” In recent weeks, Washington has ratcheted up the pressure on the Pakistani military establishment. (See this post). Cutting off military aid marks a further turning of the knob, albeit a much bigger one. Why? To make the Pakistani military more amenable to doing what Washington wants it to, and what since even before Osama bin Laden’s killing, General Ashfaq Kayani was refusing to do. What might these be? Taking down al-Qaeda linked taliban groups that Pakistan shelters on its soil, permitting US counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and ensuring that Pakistan’s Afghan proxies do not disrupt a settlement in Kabul.

These are limited objectives. It is premature to conclude that the Obama administration has decided to break with its ally (the Pakistani military establishment), or even to make the rebalancing of civil-military relations a policy goal.

Even so, Washington’s move will have the effect of strengthening the civilian, anti-military political establishment, not least because the country’s elite will see that the all-powerful generals do not have the US behind them. This can galvanise greater opposition to the army although an open revolt is nowhere on the cards. It is unfortunate that at a time when the military establishment is at its weakest, the main political parties are fighting internecine battles. Given the ISI’s history of manipulating the country’s political parties, the eruption of conflict among Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Sharif, Muttahida Quami Movement and Awami National Party might not be a mere coincidence.

As the US reduces its troop levels in Afghanistan and its dependence of Pakistan to provide supply routes, it becomes less beholden to the Pakistani military establishment. Unless Pakistan manages get China and Saudi Arabia to intervene on its behalf, the Obama administration can continue to mount pressure on General Kayani & Co.

The risk now is of the military establishment attempting out-of-the-box solutions to get out of the box.

Pax Indica: Why they killed bin Laden now

The military-jihadi complex is likely to grow stronger

In today’s Pax Indica column on Yahoo, I warn that India has at best two summers before cross-border militancy and terrorism rise again.

You might remember a Shekhar Suman gag on Zee TV’s Movers and Shakers several years ago: An angry George W Bush announces that the United States will bomb the place where Osama bin Laden is found to be hiding.

Hearing this, Vajpayee looks under his bed, pauses, and with a characteristic flick of his wrist says: “Thank God! He isn’t here!”

Over in Rawalpindi, General Musharraf looks under his bed, sighs in relief, and says: “Thank God! He is still here!”

Shekhar Suman, more than most Western analysts, got the plot right. Keeping Osama bin Laden out of Washington’s hands was vital in order to prevent having to publicly deal with revelations of how the Pakistani military-jihadi complex not only was connected with al-Qaeda, but might also have been involved in the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. [Read the rest at Yahoo!]

Direct channel to Rawalpindi

Engaging the Pakistani army chief is a good idea. Conceding anything is not.

In a Pax Indica column in September 2010 I wrote about India’s engagement paradox:

New Delhi talks to the powerless but can’t talk to those in power, or vice versa. It’s most obvious in Pakistan. General Ashfaq Kayani is the man calling the shots. India has no direct channel of communication with him. The people New Delhi does talk to — the likes of President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani — have little say in the subjects that New Delhi talks to them about. This creates an illusion of movement in bilateral relations when, fundamentally, there is none. To be fair, the fact that Pakistan has such a complicated political structure (I’m being charitable here) is not India’s fault. But if the Americans can rejig their foreign policy apparatus such that some people talk to the generals while others talk to the politicians, surely, so can we. [The Acorn/Yahoo!]

Why might this be the case? In last Monday’s Business Standard column I argued that:

(One) reason why India finds itself in a bind with respect to Pakistan, where it needs to engage the real power centre but finds itself with no means to. It is not a matter of matching protocol, for it is not purely military matters that we wish to discuss with General Kayani. Washington, in comparison, handles this a lot better through Admiral Mullen and General David Petraeus, the CENTCOM chief, who are the primary interlocutors with the Pakistan army. Given that these admirals and generals are engaged in diplomatic activities of serious importance to India, can we afford to stay out of the military diplomatic loop?[The Acorn/Business Standard]

While India has not shied from talking to Pakistani army chiefs after they become dictators, dealing with General Ashfaq Kayani directly challenges diplomatic optics. The 26/11 attacks and their aftermath left no doubt that it was he, and not the Zardari-Gilani government, that was in charge. Yet, because he did not announce himself to be the dictator, chief executive or president of Pakistan, the Indian government couldn’t openly deal with him.

Bharat Karnad first alluded to a direct back channel engagement late last month (linkthanks Swami Iyer). However, it was a London Times report over the weekend that captured attention in India. The Prime Minister’s Office has issued a carefully worded denial while the Pakistani military spokesman declined to comment. It is highly likely that the reports are generally accurate and a direct channel, albeit with some deniability, has been in place for the last few months. [See this post at Pragmatic Euphony]

Why it makes sense to engage
It makes sense to directly engage the real centre of power in Pakistan. First, it allows India’s policymakers to both understand the Pakistani army’s motivations, thinking and demands, and also to communicate its own positions (both bilateral and those relating to Afghanistan). [See editorials in Mint and Indian Express]

Second, initiating an engagement “ten months ago” could have helped tactically buy respite from terrorist attacks during a critical period—post-crisis economic recovery and the world cup cricket tournament. Tactically again, it could be intended to reduce the heat of the 2011 summer in Kashmir.

To induce co-operation, though, India might have to indicate its flexibility on some issues: most likely, downplaying demands to prosecute Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders and playing up the resolution of the Sir Creek and Siachen issues.

Why such engagement is risky
For all its advantages, engaging Kayani & Co is not without risks.

First, there is a risk that it will lull the Indian security establishment into believing in the other sides’ bona fides, as after Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore. Keeping it secret mitigates this risk to some extent, but to the extent that it affects the psychologies of the prime minister and the top echelon of the national security apparatus, the risk of being backstabbed should concern us. Even if General Kayani himself were to have a miraculous change of heart, the Musharraf’s Musharraf effect, wherein the military-jihadi complex will act to pull the rug from under its own leader, cannot be discounted.

Second, there is a risk that the flexibility that the Indian negotiator must show in order to induce co-operation will end up locking New Delhi in. There is a perception that Siachen, for instance, is a low-hanging fruit that India can “give” to show sincerity. This is wrong: India must climb down from the Saltoro ridge entirely on its own terms. The larger issue here is that allowing the Pakistani military-jihadi complex to believe that the threat of terrorism under a nuclear umbrella will force India to concede anything is a very bad idea.

Third, a consistent impression has been created in the Indian mind that India’s approach to Pakistani aggression is to turn the other cheek. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dogmatic approach to pursuit talks, first with Zardari-Gilani & Co and now with Kayani, risk a public backlash that risk undermining any mutual gains that might have been made as a result of it.

Fourth, Dr Singh is bargaining from a position of personal weakness, the worst position to be in while opening negotiations. He has long been out on a limb on Pakistan policy, and is just one terrorist attack away from being out of office. His government is now on the ropes on the matter of corruption and malgovernance. This compounds the risks of him making concessions in order to stay afloat.

Finally, New Delhi is reducing the pressure on General Kayani at a time when Washington is raising it. The Pakistani military-jihadi complex must be contained in the short-term. Squandering opportunities to bring forward the crunch time in Rawalpindi is an unwise move.

So what should we make of it?
On the balance, that New Delhi has chosen to open up a direct line with the Pakistani Army’s GHQ is a good thing. It could have been better timed though. We should be concerned that it is a dogmatic Dr Singh who is handling the secret, opaque process. For that reason, public debate and the political process should put a backstop on the proceedings. Opposition parties, especially the BJP, would do well to prohibit the Prime Minister from making even the smallest concession of substance.

Hanging by its kerry

The US-Pakistan relationship is fraying but not yet broken

So the New York Times reports that “it is increasingly apparent that (the United States and Pakistan) have differing, even irreconcilable, aims in Afghanistan.”

With the Afghan endgame looming, suspicion is overwhelming faint cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, as each side seeks to secure its interests, increase its leverage to obtain them, and even cut out the other if need be, American and Pakistani officials say.

No one in Pakistan or in Washington now speaks of returning to the strategic alliance made by President George W. Bush and Gen. Pervez Musharraf immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the primary goal was to operate joint intelligence efforts to capture operatives of Al Qaeda. Military officials from both sides say that arrangement was never bound to be a longstanding affair.

“There was never a level of trust,” said a former American military official who served in a senior position in Pakistan. “I’m convinced now they don’t want our help.” [NYT]

We have long been of the view that this is bound to happen.

Sooner or later, the Obama administration will come to realise that it has no way to make the Pakistani military establishment seriously fight and defeat the jihadi groups, which includes the Taliban, al-Qaeda and outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. When that moment comes, Barack Obama will need to choose between direct confrontation with the Pakistani military-jihadi complex and colossal strategic defeat…[Mint/The Acorn]

We had argued that it was in India’s interests to force such a reckoning sooner rather than later. In the event, India acted neither to accelerate nor decelerate this process, things took their course, and the moment of truth is now much closer than it was when the Obama administration took office. Yet, the United States has an enormous interest in ensuring that the breakup doesn’t happen, and if it does, happens without violence or an emotional breakdown. The military-jihadi complex in Pakistan has created a public atmosphere in Pakistan where General Kayani will be feted if a breakdown were to occur. Washington too is aware of this.

All is is part of a broader negotiating game. If the Pakistanis take you to the edge of a cliff its because they are relatively more comfortable bargaining from there.

Tailpiece: A kerry, according to the Meaning of Liff, is the small twist of skin that separates two sausages.

My op-ed in WSJ Asia – Dr Singh’s leap of faith

India’s decision to resume dialogue with Pakistan is a triumph of faith over reason

The following is the original draft of my op-ed that appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal Asia earlier this week:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waited until public memory of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26th November 2008 faded to a level that it was politically feasible for him to resume the composite bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. The attacks had compelled him to reluctantly suspend official talks two years ago. Despite increasingly compelling evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out those attacks with the connivance of the Pakistani military establishment, Islamabad has preferred to engage in a dilatory game of dossiers-and-lawsuits to avoid having to take any action against the perpetrators of one of the most provocative acts of terrorism in recent years. Yet, in the absence of the tiniest acts of good faith from his Pakistani counterparts, Prime Minister Singh has dogmatically persisted with his pursuit of dialogue — a policy which last week saw New Delhi effectively yielding to Pakistan’s demand of talks without preconditions.

Dialogue for Mr Singh is neither an eyewash to satisfy the international community nor a pragmatic policy tied to outcomes. It is almost a matter of faith, oblivious to facts or reason. Continue reading “My op-ed in WSJ Asia – Dr Singh’s leap of faith”

Hanging around the Y-junction

The United States can only delay making the real strategic decision

It was interesting to see, towards the end of Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, members of the Obama administration realise that the United States is in the same place today as it was in early 2009. Recent events validate that assessment. Frustrated with the Pakistani army’s refusal to shut down taliban safe havens, the US-led forces attacked across the border killing Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani military retaliated by shutting down the supply route, letting taliban militants destroy some trucks and show that it has the ability to inflict some pain. This was roughly the state of affairs when Barack Obama took over as president.

This is exactly what we had argued:

Sooner or later, the Obama administration will come to realise that it has no way to make the Pakistani military establishment seriously fight and defeat the jihadi groups, which includes the Taliban, al-Qaeda and outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. When that moment comes, Barack Obama will need to choose between direct confrontation with the Pakistani military-jihadi complex and colossal strategic defeat. [Operation Markarap]

What now? It is unlikely that President Obama would choose “direct confrontation with the Pakistani military-jihadi complex” just yet. The race to find options short of that is almost certainly on, and a “throw them a bone” alternative will be sought. There are three possible bones. First, to accept a pro-Pakistani political dispensation in Afghanistan. Second, to accept the “legitimacy of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. Third, to press India to compromise on Kashmir.

The first option doesn’t appeal to General Ashfaq Kayani at this stage because he believes he can get there without the United States. The second option is a status symbol they can do without, not least because China continues to support the expansion of the Pakistani arsenal. The third option might just do the trick, because which Pakistani general is immune to the potential glory of being the one who won Kashmir?

So expect Washington to exert pressure on India over Kashmir. Expect pressure to restart the composite dialogue and suchlike. It’ll take the Obama administration a year or so to realise that this is a dead-end. General Kayani will probably realise it a little before Washington does. And then what?

Well, we told you already. Barack Obama will need to choose between direct confrontation with the Pakistani military-jihadi complex and colossal strategic defeat.

A strategic shift towards extremism

The silent majority in Pakistan is not moderate

Move over Wikileaks, the sit-back-and-take-notice piece of information comes from Pew Global Attitudes Project. It’s latest report on attitudes towards extremism shows just how bad the world’s Pakistan problem is.

We are used to hearing the cliche that the majority of Pakistanis are moderate. Well, this is what the survey shows:

Pakistanis overwhelmingly support making segregation of men and women in the workplace the law in their country (85%), and comparable percentages favor instituting harsh punishments such as stoning people who commit adultery (82%), whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery (82%), and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion (76%). Support for gender segregation and for severe punishments is pervasive across all demographic and regional groups.

Majorities among those who identify with modernizers and among those who side with Islamic fundamentalists in a struggle between the two groups endorse making harsh punishments the law in Pakistan. However, those who identify with fundamentalists are much more likely than those who side with the modernizers to support harsh punishments under the law. For example, 88% of those who say they identify with Islamic fundamentalists favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion, compared with 67% of those who side with the modernizers. [PewGlobal emphasis added]

If that’s not bad enough, there’s more: the proportion of people who identify themselves with ‘modernisers’ has decreased from 71% to 63%. As the survey report says “even though Pakistanis largely reject extremist organizations, they embrace some of the severe laws advocated by such groups.”

Almost all Pakistanis say that terrorism is a big problem. They disapprove of terrorist and militant groups that directly or indirectly target Pakistanis. Disapproval ratings for al-Qaeda, ‘The Taliban’ (presumably the Mullah Omar group), Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistan Taliban) and Afghan Taliban are 53%, 65%, 51% and 49% respectively. When it comes to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group that attacks India the disapproval rate falls to 35%. The LeT enjoys higher support too—at 25% it beats al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban who are tied at 18% for the second place.

As many as 40% of the respondents answered “don’t know” or refused to answer to the question whether they viewed the Lashkar-e-Taiba favourably. Even if we accept the the improbable contention that four in ten Pakistanis somehow do not know about the LeT despite its nationwide presence, the fact that such a large proportion of the population is ambivalent about this outfit strengthens the hands of its supporters.

What does all this mean? Well, that the majority of Pakistanis disapprove of extremist groups only to the extent that they cause trouble for and in their own country. When seen in the context of their perception of the threat from India and the salience of the Kashmir issue, their ambivalence towards the LeT is understandable. Also understandable is why neither the Pakistani civilian government nor the Pakistan army will act against the LeT. It supports our argument that there is a limit to which the Pakistani army can genuinely fight jihadi groups—how long can they fight those who share the same vision? In this context, it is not difficult for the military-jihadi complex to engineer events to pursue its own geopolitical agenda.

What is not understandable though is just why anyone—in Washington, New Delhi or even in Pakistan itself—thinks that endogenous change is possible. The United States is deeply unpopular despite all the financial, political and diplomatic support it gives. President Zardari is deeply unpopular despite his perhaps genuine attempts to improve relations with India, which ostensibly, is what three in four Pakistanis say they support. General Kayani and the military are held in high regard, despite their obvious lack of interest in quelling extremist groups and in improving relations with India.

More than averages it is the margins that are important. At the margin, Pakistanis have grown closer and more accommodative of extremism and its practitioners. And Obama administration officials want the Pakistani government to continue the “strategic shift” away from militant groups. It’s not happening, Barack!

Obama wasn’t there. Kayani was.

Despite the Wikileaks documents, US policy on Pakistan is unlikely to change

The immediate response by President Barack Obama’s media managers to the release of thousands of war logs has been to blame the Bush administration. “The period of time covered in these documents (January 2004-December 2009)” the White House says “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.” As the latest release—and perhaps a more damning future one—by Wikileaks works its way through the US political system, Mr Obama will have to do a lot better than that. (Yes, yes, another speech full of high rhetoric is on the cards.)

However as my INI colleague pointed out this morning, that period includes General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s entire tenure as ISI chief. As Tunku Varadarajan writes in the Daily Beast

Much of the latest involvement in the Afghan insurgency by the ISI—Pakistan’s military intelligence—happened on Gen. Kayani’s watch, when he was the head of the ISI. That very same man, Kayani, whose agency lovingly breastfed the Taliban, and who was later elevated to chief of army staff, has just been granted a three-year extension by Pakistan’s civilian government. It boggles the mind that this duplicitous underminer of the U.S. war effort is now General David Petraeus’ direct interlocutor. Petraeus will need to navigate a labyrinth of misinformation and half-truths, accompanied by typically unctuous protestations that Pakistan is doing everything it can to help us in the war against al Qaeda. [Daily Beast]

This is not really news. But now that the ISI’s skulduggery has the international media’s attention, it will be much harder for US officials to pretend that Gen Kayani smells of roses. Here’s something to think about—what if Wikileaks had delivered their scoop before his term was extended? Here’s something else to think about—there was time until November this year to announce the extension of his term.