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U.S.-Pakistan Intel Ties in Trouble

Interviewees: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, CFR
Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council of the United States
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Senior Staff Writer, CFR.org
March 4, 2011

The arrest of Raymond Davis, reportedly a CIA contractor, who shot and killed two Pakistani men in Lahore, has led to fallout in the diplomatic relations between Washington and Islamabad. CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey says, in particular, the relations between the intelligence agencies--Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the CIA in the United States--have also taken "a big hit."

A breakdown in the intelligence relationship could jeopardize the war effort in Afghanistan and spell a serious setback to counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan's tribal areas. The two agencies, most analysts say, have been working closely, especially on conducting drone attacks targeting militants in Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan.  But they differ on some core issues such as Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan, says Shuja Nawaz , director of the South Asia center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council of the United States. The CIA also believes that the ISI continues to have links with some Afghanistan- and India-focused militant groups such as the Haqqani network, Quetta Shura Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Markey says: "ISI has sought to wall off its interactions with the CIA" where "certain elements of the ISI coordinate closely and they are completely separated by internal institutional firewall  from those elements of the ISI that do not cooperate with the CIA and maybe pursuing activities that are actually opposed to what the CIA would like." He adds that the Davis case suggests that the CIA may have taken a similar approach where "elements of the CIA are active inside Pakistan without ISI's knowledge" and perhaps without the knowledge of other branches of the CIA and U.S. government.

The frenzy and paranoia in the Pakistani media and among the public has further weakened an already fragile civilian government that is seen as pro-American. The top military officials from both countries had a secret meeting (ForeignPolicy.com) in Oman last month to find a way out of the crisis. Nawaz says both sides will have to compromise. Markey recommends the United States demonstrate to Pakistan its commitment to a "long-term improved partnership whereby Pakistan will have its core interests protected" and in return Pakistanis "will have to jettison their working relationships with extremists and militant groups inside their own society."

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