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Caught In A Tangled Web

Author: Daniel S. Markey, Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
September 18, 2013
Indian Express


What the Snowden leaks say about US-Pakistan relations.

Like the WikiLeaks scandal before it, The Washington Post's revelations earlier this month about the massive US intelligence operations directed at Pakistan will cause heartburn on both sides. Yet, most of the Post's recently unveiled secrets are unremarkable. The real story here — and one that could too easily be missed by readers caught up in a few tantalising hints about operational details of US spycraft — has to do with the deep contradictions and complexities that lie at the heart of the US relationship with Pakistan.

Few readers could be surprised to hear that the US intelligence community places Pakistan — a land of nuclear weapons, terrorist networks and routine political instability — among its highest priorities. Pakistanis need no classified documents to convince them that the US is snooping and interfering in their country. With the Raymond Davis incident, drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound, this has been an open secret for years.

US agencies have good reasons to stay focused on Pakistan, even after the war in Afghanistan winds down, and even though al-Qaeda is but a shell of its pre-9/11 self. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is growing, and the military seems particularly eager to build tactical (small, short range) warheads that are relatively harder to track and easier to steal. Leaders of homegrown terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, the group that orchestrated the November 2008 commando-style attack on Mumbai, hide in plain sight, making a mockery of US bounties on their heads.

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