Foreign Policy Blogs

CIA Moves To Appease ISI While Maintaining Covert Operations

It is abundantly clear that the Pakistani military intends to use the recent Raymond Davis affair as a bargaining chip that it hopes will keep rolling back to the negotiating table. Raymond Davis, a 36 year old man revealed to be a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men on the streets of Lahore earlier this year.  After huffed, loud protests and protestations and many adamant declarations on the necessity of his prosecution in Pakistani court–declarations to the contrary cost the former Foreign Minister his career–Davis was released.

Now, given the fiery outrage that this whole affair has caused in Pakistan, outrage that at the margins could destabilize the civilian government, the military and the ISI has begun to extract concessions from its U.S military and intelligence counterparts.  This, because the military knows that the U.S government and the CIA can little afford to do its work to hunt al Qaeda’s leadership without maximal co-operation from Pakistan’s military and intelligence assets-even if those assets might often work at loggerheads with American interests.

The recent NY Times and Washington Post articles lays down the issue quite well.  Pakistani intelligence has demanded that the CIA reveal more substance about its operations, principally the predator drone surveillance and covert operations that more or less make up the covert war in Pakistan.  Further, the ISI demanded that the CIA reduce the number of drone strikes targeted within Pakistan.

There was a heated exchange on Monday between the heads of the allied secret intelligence agencies, CIA’s Leon Panetta and ISI’s Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha at CIA head quarter.  Another Washington Post piece lays out the ways the CIA has been trying to move in synch with Pakistan’s ISI, though it has not removed any personnel out of Pakistan.

The CIA declared that it would reveal information about and allow more cooperation in its drone strike operations.  But it has, so far, resisted the demand to cut down the number of drone strikes targeted within Pakistan proper.  This, even though immediately after Raymond Davis was released, a drone in North Waziristan is alleged to have killed civilians.  Nevertheless, the move to give out information on those strikes hampers U.S. efforts to target enemy combatants in whatever shape they happen to present themselves-even if the move doesn’t actually diminish the possibility of striking innocent civilians.

This move then shows that for the moment, the ISI has the upper hand over the CIA, though that hand has been dealt at a heavy cost.  It remains to see what the impact of the current strained relations will be on military operations and politics in Pakistan. Already the frequency of drone strikes has plummeted relative to the spring thaw strikes this time last year.  It would be hardly surprising, however, if the CIA’s concessions did not drastically reduce even those sorties that had been planned until now.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

Great Decisions Discussion group