Time to take on Pakistan’s jihadist spies
By Mansoor Ijaz
Source: Financial Times
Early on May 9, a week after US Special Forces stormed the hideout of Osama bin Laden and killed him, a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned me with an urgent request. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, needed to communicate a message to White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels. The embarrassment of bin Laden being found on Pakistani soil had humiliated Mr Zardari’s weak civilian government to such an extent that the president feared a military takeover was imminent. He needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup – and fast.
Gen Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, and his troops were demoralised by the embarrassing ease with which US special forces had violated Pakistani sovereignty. Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s feared spy service, was charged by virtually the entire international community with complicity in hiding bin Laden for almost six years. Both camps were looking for a scapegoat; Mr Zardari was their most convenient target.
The diplomat made clear that the civilian government’s preferred channel to receive Mr Zardari’s message was Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff. He was a time-tested friend of Pakistan and could convey the necessary message with force not only to President Barack Obama, but also to Gen Kayani.
In a flurry of phone calls and emails over two days a memorandum was crafted that included a critical offer from the Pakistani president to the Obama administration: “The new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.”
The memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen at 14.00 hours on May 10. A meeting between him and Pakistani national security officials took place the next day at the White House. Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs, it seems, neither heeded the warning, nor acted on the admiral’s advice.
On September 22, in his farewell testimony to the Senate armed services committee, Admiral Mullen said he had “credible intelligence” that a bombing on September 11 that wounded 77 US and Nato troops and an attack on the US embassy in Kabul on September 13 were done “with ISI support.”Essentially he was indicting Pakistan’s intelligence services for carrying out a covert war against the US – perhaps in retaliation for the raid on bin Laden’s compound, perhaps out of strategic national interest to put Taliban forces back in power in Afghanistan so that Pakistan would once again have the “strategic depth” its paranoid security policies against India always envisioned.
Questions about the ISI’s role in Pakistan have intensified in recent months. The finger of responsibility in many otherwise inexplicable attacks has often pointed to a shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed “S-Wing”, which is said to be dedicated to promoting the dubious agenda of a narrow group of nationalists who believe only they can protect Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
The time has come for the state department to declare the S-Wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of “foreign governmental organisations”. Plans by the Obama administration to blacklist the Haqqani network are toothless and will have no material impact on the group’s military support and intelligence logistics; it is S-Wing that allegedly provides all of this in the first place. It no longer matters whether ISI is wilfully blind, complicit or incompetent in the attacks its S-Wing is carrying out. S-Wing must be stopped.
ISI embodies the scourge of radicalism that has become a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistani state that undermines global antiterrorism efforts at every turn. Measures such as stopping aid to Pakistan, as a bill now moving through Congress aims to do, are not the solution. More precise policies are needed to remove the cancer that ISI and its rogue wings have become on the Pakistani state.
Pakistanis are not America’s enemies. Neither is their incompetent and toothless civilian government – the one Admiral Mullen was asked to help that May morning. The enemy is a state organ that breeds hatred among Pakistan’s Islamist masses and then uses their thirst for jihad against Pakistan’s neighbours and allies to sate its hunger for power. Taking steps to reduce its influence over Pakistan’s state affairs is a critical measure of the world’s willingness to stop the terror masters at their very roots.
The writer is an American of Pakistani ancestry. In 1997 he negotiated Sudan’s offer of counter-terrorism assistance to the Clinton administration
Text of Mansoor Ijaz rejoinder
FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS, says Mansoor IJAZ
NEW YORK – “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” — John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials’, December 1770.
On November 10, 2011, Foreign Policy, a US news journal focused on foreign affairs reporting in Washington DC, published an article in which the author elicited certain statements from Admiral Mike Mullen’s spokesman, Captain John Kirby, denying that the Admiral had received a memorandum specifically from me containing certain information and making certain offers from the civilian government of Pakistan to the United States on May 10th, nine days after Osama bin Laden had been killed in a raid on the Abbottabad compound he was hiding in for nearly six years.
The background behind why this denial was solicited from Admiral Mullen, and issued, is important to understand. One month after I published an opinion piece in the Financial Times in which I wrote that I had been asked by a senior Pakistani diplomat to act as a private channel in getting the memorandum into the admiral’s hands — not that I delivered the memorandum myself, but that I made sure it got to him through the right channel in Washington — there is growing desperation within the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to cover its tracks in what a certain Pakistani official did, apparently with the president’s consent or perhaps just in his name, outside the knowledge of the country’s military leaders, intelligence department and even its Foreign Office. This cabal within Pakistan’s civilian government will stop at nothing to prevent me from telling the truth by attempting to discredit me — a miscalculation of epic proportions.
As I stated in my previous Press Release, I have the facts — ALL THE FACTS. And so today, without compromising names or the highly sensitive content of the memorandum, I am providing a sampling of the truth in my possession to set the record straight. My purpose is to give sufficient evidence to insure:
that there can be no doubt a request was made of me by a senior Pakistan government official, not that I asked to be involved in this matter. Neither did I offer to do anything until I asked senior current and former US officials whether there was receptivity to what the Pakistani official had authorized me to discuss with them.
that there can be no doubt a memorandum was drafted and transmitted to Admiral Mullen with the approval of the highest political level in Pakistan, and that the admiral received it with certainty from a source whom he trusted and who also trusted me. It was a source the admiral would not, and according to e-mail traffic in my possession, did not ignore.
that there can be no doubt proof exists of the admiral acknowledging receipt of the memorandum. Whether he chose to do anything with the memorandum or not, I cannot know and do not care — my responsibility was to see that the memo got into his hands safely. The visible actions of both governments in the aftermath of that memorandum being delivered demonstrate that if it was not a source of content for those actions, the actions taken by both the US and Pakistan even as recently as the past few weeks track closely with the offers made by Pakistan on May 10th.
that the public should know a persistent effort has been made by an array of Pakistanis, particularly by the diplomat who fears his name will be divulged, in the weeks following publication of my opinion piece to persuade, pressure, intimidate and even threaten me to not make further disclosures about the events of May 9th and 10th. The solicitation of a denial from Admiral Mullen was their last gasp hope in trying to shut me up. Obviously it did not work.
The data set forth below is divided into three categories. The first deals with dates on which the intervention was requested from me and some of the key communications at points during those three days to give an overview of how the intervention took shape. The second deals with communications I had with the Pakistani official in an effort to stop further disclosures that would compromise the Zardari government. And the third deals with Admiral Mullen’s press statement of November 10 disavowing any knowledge of the memorandum or the circumstances in which he got it.
I have withheld, pending an official investigation by certain organs of Pakistan’s government, names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of those involved — this data will only be provided to the official bodies who request them from me and who demonstrate their independence and concern for learning the truth from these facts. The memorandum will remain out of public view unless the official bodies of Pakistan’s government deem it appropriate to release it.
From about midday on May 9th until the afternoon of May 12th, I set forth below a sampling of BBM messages and times and dates as well as durations of calls with content to give an overview of the timeline in skeleton form. Much more data exists than has been shown here. The data set is complete. It can withstand any forensic examination required and can be verified if and when the need arises to give official bodies an accounting of what happened on those days. At the outset, the first BBM message sent as set forth below was unsolicited and sent by the Pakistani official to me on Monday, May 9, 2011 at 12:31pm. The timeline develops from this first instance of contact with the Pakistani official — prior to this unsolicited message, we had not had any material communications for several months. All times noted are Central European Time (with US time calculated to be six hours behind). BBM refers to BlackBerry messages. E-M refers to E-mails.
BBM 05/09/2011 12:31 [PAK OFFICIAL-NAME REDACTED]: Are you in London? I am here just for 36 hours. Can we meet for after dinner coffee or s’thing? BBM 05/09/2011 12:32 Mansoor IJAZ: I’m in Monaco but it’s no problem for me to fly up. Takes 90 minutes. What time did you have in mind? Where do you want to meet? BBM 05/09/2011 12:35 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Pls call me. I’m at [NAME OF HOTEL, TEL NO. AND ROOM NUMBER REDACTED] BBM 05/09/2011 12:35 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Waiting for ur call now TEL 05/09/2011 12:35:49 [TEL# REDACTED] call to Pakistan official at his request during which notes were taken to frame outline of memo. duration of call 16:03 TEL 05/09/2011 12:58:06 [TEL# REDACTED] call to US contact, duration of call 02:25 TEL 05/09/2011 13:54:31 [TEL# REDACTED] call to US contact, duration of call 19:26 Memorandum was formulated, edited and sent for Pakistani approval during the balance of the day of May 9th. E-M 05/09/2011 18:32 E-MAIL FROM IJAZ to PAK OFFICIAL: first draft of the Memorandum to review, edit and get approved BBM 05/09/2011 18:38 Mansoor IJAZ: The message I sent is what MM will see. It will be given directly to him and no one else BBM 05/09/2011 18:59 Mansoor IJAZ: My friend in DC simply said too many people have been burned in the past two years on the US side and he wanted to insure that on such a sensitive subject, the data and proposal are clear. This is you to me, me to him. He trusts me enough to know I won’t bring it forward unless it has top level approval. [SENTENCE RELATING TO NAMES REDACTED]. So get whatever message you want delivered back to me and I’ll insure it gets in MM’s hands. Best. M BBM 05/10/2011 00:29 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Msg recvd. Tweaking. Middile of road option sounds good. Will call morning. E-M 05/10/2011 02:04 E-MAIL FROM IJAZ TO US CONTACT with final agreed draft of Memorandum, pending one final approval from Pakistani official to confirm agreement on content and agreement to go ahead with delivery to Admiral Mullen BBM 05/10/2011 08:47 Mansoor IJAZ: You have mail from two of my mailboxes. Please read, respond and then we have one last short discussion before I put everything in motion. Thanks. M TEL 05/10/2011 09:06:16 [TEL# REDACTED] call to Pakistan official, duration of call 11:16 — during this call, the official gave me his consent and told me he had “approval from the boss” to proceed E-M 05/10/2011 14:04 RETURN RECEIPT of E-mail from US contact sent at 02:04am (at his local time 08:04am) which contained the Memorandum TEL 05/10/2011 14:51:33 [TEL# REDACTED] call to US contact (at his local time 08:51), duration of call 02:55 — informed the contact that we had a GO from Zardari and that the memo I had sent him at 02:04am was final and could be delivered to Admiral Mullen BBM 05/10/2011 14:57 Mansoor IJAZ: Message delivered with caveat that he has to decide how hard to push — we only set the table. He must decide if he wants one course meal or seven course meal. Ball is in play now — make sure you have protected your flanks E-M 05/11/2011 20:06 E-MAIL FROM US CONTACT TO IJAZ stating “Mansoor, message delivered, Best [NAME REDACTED]” A meeting took place during the afternoon of May 11 in which senior Pakistani officials and senior US officials were present. The purpose of the back-channel memorandum as conceived by the Pakistani official was to give the US side sufficient incentive in the form of the memo’s high-quality deliverables that it wouldappear innocuous to Pakistani intelligence and military officials accompanying certain political officers of the government to the meeting if and when AdmiralMullen delivered a strong rebuke against any military intervention that might displace the civilian government in the days following the raid. The Pakistani official called me after the meeting had taken place and was almost gleeful that Admiral Mullen had agreed to take certain actions in line withwhat was asked of him and that it would all remain within the normal course of inter-agency dealings in his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. We can no longer exclude the possibility that the civilian apparatus needed to create the specter of a coup — when none actually existed — to divert attentionaway from….. well, let’s leave that for another day. We continue with the data and stick to the facts. BBM 05/12/2011 00:36 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Call me on my cell BBM 05/12/2011 00:37 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Also, M in ur msgs above referred to the Admiral, right? BBM 05/12/2011 00:37 Mansoor IJAZ: Yes BBM 05/12/2011 00:54 Mansoor IJAZ: Clarification. M at the end of a message is Mansoor. M or MM in the text of a message is the admiral. Apologies for any confusion. E-M 05/12/2011 01:44 E-MAIL FROM US CONTACT TO IJAZ confirming time of delivery when Admiral Mullen received the Memorandum and that Admiral Mullen had called the US contact (the remaining content of this e-mail is not for public disclosure) BBM 05/12/2011 02:47 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Thanx. On way to [LOCATION REDACTED]. Will touch base on return BBM 05/12/2011 02:54 Mansoor IJAZ: Good luck. Let me know at any time if you need any help
ORCHESTRATING THE ADMIRAL’S DENIAL
I wrote the FT opinion piece, ultimately published on October 10th, back in September, a few days after Admiral Mullen testified in Congress at his final hearing about the complicity of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services in certain attacks on United States and NATO interests. I wrote the piece because I felt Admiral Mullen, whom I do not know personally but have admired greatly for his steady hand in dealing with a tough bunch, had been harshly mistreated by Pakistan’s press corps for stating an essential and existential truth.
I felt it was important for the public at large to understand that he had genuinely tried to do something about the problem as he navigated the complex relationship between Washington and Islamabad, and that the failures cropping up in the bilateral relationship were not for a lack of trying to fix things. I opened the piece with the brief anecdote of what had been done in May to highlight the tangible actions that had been taken to deal with the growing interference and threat posed by extremist segments of the military and intelligence communities in Pakistan.
I did not imagine at the time I wrote the piece that Pakistan’s press corps would only latch on to the issue of a secret memorandum being issued without public (or at least wider government agency) knowledge or that the Pakistani official who asked me to make sure it got into Admiral Mullen’s hands could view anything we had done as wrong for the survival of the civilian government. Unfortunately, as I have learned over and over in dealing with Pakistan’s leaders through four government changes since 1994, they just cannot avoid dissimulation — being something other than what they pretend to be.
On October 28th, after a week of press releases, op-ed pieces and editorials in the Pakistani press regarding the Memorandum, my role in delivering it, the expected denials of the Foreign Office and the tongue-lashing of my good name, I and the Pakistani official who started this all shared an interesting exchange of messages via BlackBerry — perhaps the last communications we will ever have. The full details of that exchange will remain private, except for a few interesting remarks that foretold what was being planned in eliciting the Mullen denial — which I’ll deal with in the next segment.
These exchanges demonstrated the increasing tension, hostility, anxiety and frustration of the Pakistani official in not being able to control a monster of his own making. It also showed the desperation of himself and his bosses to head off a coming storm in accounting for their actions. A review of the partial BBM messenger transcript between myself and the Pakistani official which began on the day after Pakistan’s Foreign Office issued its version of the Mullen denial sets the record straight with crystal clarity:
10/28/2011 21:37 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Basically you don’t get it
10/28/2011 21:37 [PAK OFFICIAL]: You have given hardliners in Pak Mil reason to argue there was an effort to get US to conspire against Pak Mil
10/28/2011 21:38 [PAK OFFICIAL]: I will make sure FO shuts up
10/28/2011 21:38 Mansoor IJAZ: Okay, well I know my IQ is pretty low so you are probably correct in saying I just don’t get it.
10/28/2011 21:39 [PAK OFFICIAL]: The Pak press be damned
10/28/2011 21:39 [PAK OFFICIAL]: I stand by you as a man of integrity werving his country
10/28/2011 21:40 Mansoor IJAZ: But from my point of view, if there was a real threat, as you stated at the time, it is clear you were trying to save a democratic structure from those hawks
10/28/2011 21:41 [PAK OFFICIAL]: You get to write the book on how you changed US-Pak dynamic and won the war in A’tan (w/ some help from a Paki nerd)
10/28/2011 21:42 Mansoor IJAZ: I was happy to get the message in the back door because it served American interests to preserve the democratic civilian setup and the offers made, if achieved, were very much congruent with American objectives in the region
10/28/2011 21:42 [PAK OFFICIAL]: True that, friend. But you know premature revelation ain’t good
10/28/2011 21:43 Mansoor IJAZ: As far as I can see, we did right. Unless there is something I don’t see here. But then I’m sorta dumb from down on the farm where them hillbillies live
10/28/2011 21:43 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Hey! Don’t run down hillbillies
10/28/2011 21:44 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Even the smartest can miss a piece of the puzzle
10/28/2011 21:46 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Let this one go. There is much to do. MUCH. [REDACTED]
10/28/2011 21:47 [PAK OFFICIAL]: We’ll make things happen and if we can’t, we’ll write a book about it
10/28/2011 21:48 [PAK OFFICIAL]: The debate abt your oped has caused my detractors to put pressure on my boss
10/28/2011 21:54 [PAK OFFICIAL]: It is folks at State who got pissed off by your mission
10/28/2011 21:54 Mansoor IJAZ: Which mission? Sudan, Kashmir, there were so many they got pissed off about. [REDACTED]
10/28/2011 21:54 [PAK OFFICIAL]: The latest one
10/28/2011 21:55 Mansoor IJAZ: Yeah, I got it. You’re right!
10/28/2011 21:58 Mansoor IJAZ: Anyway, State will always hate me because I don’t accept their muddling way of doing things
10/28/2011 22:03 [PAK OFFICIAL]: I don’t know for a fact but I won’t be surprised if the FO statement was prompted by someone here
10/28/2011 22:11 [PAK OFFICIAL]: And now they hate me more when folks [REDACTED] who hate me tell them you and I might have been together on s’thing (whether we were or not is irrelevant to them)
10/28/2011 22:12 [PAK OFFICIAL]: That’s why I have been requesting you to let this one go
10/28/2011 22:12 [PAK OFFICIAL]: That takes attention off me
10/28/2011 22:13 Mansoor IJAZ: Hmmmmmmmmm……. Not sure anything could take attention off you
10/28/2011 22:16 Mansoor IJAZ: Did we really solve a true problem or was this all smoke and mirrors?
10/28/2011 22:16 Mansoor IJAZ: I mean on those days of stress…
10/28/2011 22:23 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Too early to say re solution
10/28/2011 22:28 [PAK OFFICIAL]: I think we save the situation from an extremely violent outcome
11/01/2011 22:06 Mansoor IJAZ: Hi buddy, I understand you/ your foreign office hacks are commissioning hatchet pieces against me. Unfortunate…. very unfortunate
11/01/2011 22:31 [PAK OFFICIAL]: I will enquire and stop them. There’s no need for any of this.
11/01/2011 22:31 [PAK OFFICIAL]: You haven’t helped by engaging so much w/ Pak media.
11/01/2011 22:32 [PAK OFFICIAL]: What happened to the ‘silent soldier’?
11/01/2011 22:34 Mansoor IJAZ: Roger that
11/01/2011 22:38 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Are you sure your side won’t deny?
11/01/2011 22:38 Mansoor IJAZ: No, maybe they will. But that would also be a mistake. Too much proof on that side as well.
11/01/2011 22:39 [PAK OFFICIAL]: But does “proving” help anything?
11/01/2011 22:39 [PAK OFFICIAL]: Is it not the nature of a private mission that officials deny it?
11/01/2011 22:41 Mansoor IJAZ: Don’t know. Don’t care. My point is simple — I’ve said what I was going to. Attacks on my person will not be tolerated. And my statement stands. Stop telling lies about me and I might just stip telling the truth about you
11/01/2011 22:42 [PAK OFFICIAL]: If you were to listen to my advice, you would let this blow over and prove yourself afterwards. You are the one who will outlast the flying s***
11/01/2011 22:43 [PAK OFFICIAL]: That is usually my strategy: be there when the others have self-destructed or blown over
The most alarming exchange was on November 1st when the diplomat asked me, presciently as it turned out when Foreign Policy published its article 9 days later, whether my side (meaning the US officials with whom we had communicated) would not deny the existence of the memorandum, etc. It was a threat in plain sight — a polite reminder that this Pakistani expert in media management would insure a denial by Pakistan would be matched by a denial in the US with the messenger damned in between. Meanwhile, his name would remain hidden. And his role in all this would be left for further expounding on in his new book.
One final note on this entire episode. Once the Pakistani official figured out I was not one he could cow down, intimidate, persuade or threaten, he deleted me from his BlackBerry contact list in the hopes that any conversation between us would automatically get deleted as well. He did this on or about November 6, three days before the Foreign Policy piece was published. An interesting coincidence…. trying to erase history as if it never happened….
I leave it to the readers to decide who did what to whom, when and for what purpose — the facts are now sufficiently enunciated to give anyone who views this story with an unjaundiced eye a clear view of the events that took place in May, and the Herculean effort to cover it all up during the past one month since I wrote my views in the FT.
ADMIRAL MULLEN’S STATEMENT & FOREIGN POLICY’S ARTICLE
Josh Rogin wrote: “Ijaz also alleged in his op-ed in the Financial Times that Zardari communicated this offer by sending a top secret memo on May 10 through Ijaz himself, to be hand-delivered to Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a key official managing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.” — I never said I delivered anything to Adm Mullen. What I wrote was — the memo was delivered to Adm Mullen at 1400 hrs on May 10.
Captain John Kirby told FP, “Adm. Mullen does not know Mr. Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him,” — it is true that I do not know Admiral Mullen and have never met him. But the person I asked to take the memorandum to him — that person knew him about as well as anyone can. And that person knows me pretty well too.
Captain Kirby: “I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him — the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual…” It surely did not come directly from me, and we have proof that Admiral Mullen received the memorandum and acknowledged it to the person who delivered it to him.
The entire Rogin article was written with a slant to discredit me personally because whoever put him up to writing the article could not avoid the facts — facts that the hidden hand behind Rogin’s article knew full well because he, along with myself, are the only two people who know precisely what we did.
Rogue operations in governments have no place in our world today. The people of Pakistan deserve better. They deserve to know the truth. And it is alone for the Pakistani people to decide whether their political leaders deserve their faith and trust after learning the truth of what has been done in their names. Equally, the American people deserve to know the truth. Our patience for the misdeeds and machinations of Pakistan’s political leaders is now all but lost, and we do not need the aggravation of further manipulation at the hands of Islamabad’s disingenuous rulers, or disingenuous US bureaucrats who hide the sins of foreign diplomats so they can get any sliver of America’s agenda executed. Bad policy is bad policy. It cannot be sugar-coated with diplomatic niceties.
I end where I started. Facts are stubborn things. If the Pakistani government’s vicious cabal stops telling lies about me, I might just stop telling the truth — the whole truth — about it. The whole truth, once it comes out, will not be easy for anyone to swallow. I remain as adamant as ever that the truth be told fairly, justly and without revisionists and hypocrites doing all they can to avoid the judgment of history.