Pakistan Military and ISI Must Purge Ranks


Asad Durrani.jpgA few years ago, I was invited to an extraordinary set of meetings in Beijing organized by Marika Vicziany of Monash University. The meeting featured participants like then Labor Party leader (and next Australia Ambassador to the U.S.) Kim Beazley and former Ministers of Defense of India and China – and leading policy personalities from the Asia Pacific region. And Generals from Pakistan.
I was the token American in what was a fascinating exercise of China, India and Pakistan former officials floating trial balloons about their respective nations’ security needs and assessments among a ring of people very close to incumbent power.
My flight was late, but when I arrived I rushed in to the conference opening luncheon and sat at the first table I found a seat. I usually say hello to every person at tables I’m seated at and did so this time.
And as I worked around the group, I met a tough-edged but obviously seriously intelligent general from Pakistan, Asad Durrani. I didn’t know much about him then but could tell that my table companions had been discussing Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) – so I jumped in with a question:

General Durrani, does President Musharraf really not control the ISI? Or is this a big put-on?

I had hit a nerve of the table as every jaw dropped — except Durrani’s.
He sat there, quite nonplussed by the question which I had just pitched to the person everyone but I knew had actually been the head of ISI in the early 1990s.
Durrani seemed to like my candor, and he candidly responded:

President Musharraf may have much to gain by seeming that he does not control ISI.

I became quite taken with the level-headed candor and smart strategic sense General Durrani displayed over the next two days — and his comments about ISI and Pakistan’s political leadership were deeply imprinted on my thinking about the shell game of trusting Pakistan’s intelligence and national security services.
Now after news that nine armed terrorists linked to al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Taliban infiltrated the command headquarters of Pakistan’s military, it seems to me that whatever certainty of control Pakistan’s political and military leaders had over their ranks is now broken.
The Rawalpindi incident could not have occurred without inside help, and fortunately, one of the ringleaders in the attack, a former soldier named Muhammad Aqeel, was captured.
Pakistan’s responsible national intelligence authorities must now begin to track all of the contacts and intelligence relations of this terrorist operation and purge their ranks of those connected. When Aldrich Ames was hiding behind mole hunts in the CIA, it finally took an investigation by the FBI to finally bring him down.
Painful as internal hunts can be for those who are collaborating with enemies of a state, they must be pursued because confidence can’t be established without purging those who are helping to empower the most virulent wings of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as al Qaeda and other groups.
This is Pakistan’s fight but it has bearing on all of its allies and partners — but tolerating a Pakistan security structure that is unwilling to exploit every lead to shut down internal spies and allies of those trying to bring down the Pakistani government and secure its nuclear weapons is not an option.
Pakistan should establish a Commission headed by General Asad Durrani with other former ISI director generals to run this search and hunt among their ranks.
The military and national security bureaucracy may protect some of their own in such a purge — but in the end, all of those who are embedded and collaborating with the likes of those who led the military attack at Command Headquarters need to be neutralized.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Pakistan Military and ISI Must Purge Ranks

  1. John Waring says:

    The US Gov’t has to get serious about the absolute necessity for the Pakistani military and ISI to purge ranks. The Kerry/Lugar bill is certainly a step in the right direction.
    The US Gov’t has to get serious about ending the Indian/Pakistani conflict in Kashmir, so that elements within the Pakistani military and ISI won’t be tempted to employ terrorism there and points south. Give Mr. Holbrooke the Kashmir brief.
    Only after tensions between India and Pakistan have abated, as well as the latent tensions between China and Pakistan, on the one hand, and India, on the other, can the Great and Lesser Powers figure out what to do about Afghanistan. My humble suggestion is to return it to its status as the land that time forgot and stop making it the cockpit of power politics. The Afghans have suffered enough.
    We think and act as if Afghanistan is mainly a US/NATO problem and therefore we are obligated to pour in troops and treasure there. It’s time the neighbors started to take their responsibilities seriously as well. We cannot fix Afghanistan by ourselves. The problems there must be addressed as part of a regional political settlement, which can only be effected through diplomacy. For the second year in a row the Indian embassy in Kabul has been bombed, so several layers of vicious intrigue are at play. Bombing embassies are acts of barbarism. We cannot douse the flames by ourselves while others are stoking them.
    China has perhaps made a significant gesture in this regard, one which I hope receives the attention it is due. Please read the following:


  2. bob h says:

    Will it take an attack on ISI headquarters itself before these people get serious?


  3. Arthur says:

    Be careful about using the term ‘inside help,’ which is a term usually reserved for those currently or recently employed. According to other news pieces Aqeel was simply a former private in the Medical Corps who left the Army in 2006. Not that much ‘inside,’ eh?


  4. ... says:

    dan – steve probably personally took that picture to give us all a laugh, but you’re the only one that was quick to get it!


  5. Dan Kervick says:

    Wow, apparently they are so poor in Pakistan that they make guests on TV news shows hold up their own screen captions.


  6. JohnH says:

    Purge the Pakistani military and ISI? Good luck!!!
    It has about as much probability as purging Goldman Sachs, Blackwater, and Halliburton from the inner circles of power in Washington.
    Personally, I’d prefer if Washington would purge the fifth columns working right down the hall. Then we can worry about subversion within the Pakistani military and ISI.


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing how these assholes in Washington can piss away billions in working against our best interests. How much money have we shoveled into Pakistan since 9/11???
    And why wasn’t Mahmud Ahmed, the ISI General, ever detained or imprisoned for being instrumental in financing Mohammed Atta???
    “War on terror”, my ass. We subsidize the real terrorists while placating the massses by chasing ghosts and myths. And how nice we get to pay for it with a failing infrastructure, a failing economy, and the total destruction of our credibility.


  8. nadine says:

    “President Musharraf may have much to gain by seeming that he does not control ISI.”
    Chief of which was that as long as he didn’t try to control ISI, he could pretend that he could if he wanted to. Second, he could use them plausible deniability to play both sides against the middle.
    Oh, the advantages are many. So what will Pakistan gain if they give them up? Why must they? It seems like lots of the questions here are phrased as if Pakistan or Iran must do something for the good of the region. As if they cared.
    Tell me why, from their own point of view, it will increase their own power and prestige and I’ll believe you. Otherwise I’ll believe they do it this way because they think it benefits them as it is. Why would they change to please the US? Do it or else? Or else what? Does Obama even have a single “or else” in his repetoire that anyone could believe?


  9. ... says:

    steve – both your links go to the same article…
    juan coles view


  10. ... says:

    In London on Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, said the attack showed the severe threat that militants pose to stability in Pakistan. But they brushed aside a question about whether, given the increased militant activity, the Pakistani government could be trusted to keep its own nuclear weapons secure.
    “In respect of the nuclear issue, there is no evidence that has been shown publicly or privately of any threat to the Pakistani nuclear facilities,” Mr. Miliband said at the news conference.
    Mrs. Clinton reiterated that the Obama administration had “confidence in the Pakistani government.”


  11. ... says:

    “Painful as internal hunts can be for those who are collaborating with enemies of a state, they must be pursued because confidence can’t be established without purging those who are helping to empower the most virulent wings of…” fill in the blanks, lol…


  12. ... says:

    how about a purge of the cia along the questioning sibel edmunds raises as well? or does an accident have to happen first??


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