[credit provider=”Wikimedia Commons” url=”http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Quetta%2C_Pakistan_-_sunset.jpg”]
Laura Rozen has a typically excellent recap of yesterday’s meeting between Pakistan’s top intelligence official, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and CIA Director Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. The Pakistanis are seeking “greater visibility” into CIA and Special Forces operations in their home country. The Americans “hear” those concerns but have no intention of giving the Pakistanis “greater visibility” into anything the US is doing, ever. And for good reason. Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, is sometimes allied with US interests and sometimes allied with forces hostile to US interests. It depends on the “situation.” Generally speaking, the ISI helps the US target Al Qaeda and Taliban cells in Pakistan, while supporting Al Qaeda and Taliban military efforts against the US and its allies in Afghanistan.
Giving Pakistan “greater visibility” into CIA and Special Forces operations inside Pakistan would require a level of trust that simply no longer exists. Both sides understand that. So most of what is being reported here is posturing for home consumption. The Pakistanis get to stand up to the evil Americans. The Americans pretend to care.
The real game is leverage. Pakistan is a nuclear state. The collapse of its government might put one or some of their nuclear weapons in the hands of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. That’s Pakistan’s leverage.
The US is a major funder of the Pakistan government, its military and its intelligence services. WIthout US money and support at institutions like the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan’s economy would likely collapse. That’s its leverage.
Neither side can afford to let the other go. But the US has the upper hand. All of these Pakistani government leaders, military leaders and intelligence officials like their jobs and their lifestyles. They like the US money they funnel off into their private accounts. They can’t imagine what life would be like if they were suddenly cut loose.
So the likeliest outcome of this most recent impasse is that the US will appear to bend publicly while the Pakistanis bend privately.
The larger question that hangs over all of this manoeuvring is whether Pakistan unravels into a failed state. There’s a hard look at that question here. The quick answer is that it could go either way. A lot rides on which way.