The Onion's satire on Pakistani duplicity hits the mark
Two days ago, The Onion wrote a humorous story satirizing Pakistan's 'cooperation' in the Long War. The piece, titled "Pakistani Intelligence Announces Its Full Cooperation With U.S. Forces During Upcoming Top Secret June 12 Drone Strike On Al-Qaeda At 5:23 A.M. Near Small Town Of Razmani In North Waziristan," poked fun at Pakistan for providing tips to al Qaeda and the Taliban on upcoming Predator airstrikes. In the article, Lieutenant General Pasha, the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's military intelligence branch, gives a briefing that outlines the exact location and target of a future US Predator strike. An excerpt from The Onion (do read the whole thing):
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency restated Thursday its commitment to the fight against terrorism, pledging full cooperation with U.S. forces during the upcoming strike on an al-Qaeda safe house on June 12 at 5:23 a.m. near the small town of Razmani in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan.
At a hastily convened press conference, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha called Pakistan's long- standing partnership with the United States "stronger than ever," explaining that both countries share an interest in rooting out al-Qaeda before its leaders have time to gather their secret cache of hidden weapons and move to a new location, possibly a tribal area in northwest Pakistan where Pasha said U.S. intelligence is limited in both its sophistication and reach.
"Make no mistake, Pakistan stands shoulder to shoulder with our American allies in hunting down those who threaten our national security," said Pasha, circling the exact location of the safe house on a large satellite photo of the town. "And we will show no mercy in targeting them, whether it be on the battlefield or, perhaps, in a bunker where the walls are thicker and offer better protection from Predator drone attacks."
"These are highly dangerous men," he continued, "who will be taken out at 5:23 a.m. I repeat: The strike begins at 5:23 a.m."
The Onion story is very funny because it is very true. As if on cue, The Washington Post published an article yesterday detailing how the US recently passed along intelligence on al Qaeda and Haqqani Network training camps to Pasha and to General Kayani, Pakistan's top military commander, only to learn that when Pakistani forces carried out "raids," the camps were empty:
Twice in recent weeks, the United States provided Pakistan with the specific locations of insurgent bomb-making factories, only to see the militants learn their cover had been blown and vacate the sites before military action could be taken, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
Overhead surveillance video and other information was given to Pakistani officials in mid-May, officials said, as part of a trust-building effort by the Obama administration after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid early last month. But Pakistani military units that arrived at the sites in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan on June 4 found them abandoned.
U.S. officials say they do not know how the operation was compromised. But they are concerned that either the information was inadvertently leaked inside Pakistan or insurgents were warned directly by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI.
A senior Pakistani military official said Friday that the United States had also shared information about other sites, including weapons-storage facilities, that were similarly found empty. "There is a suspicion that perhaps there was a tip-off," the official said. "It's being looked into by our people, and certainly anybody involved will be taken to task."
In the past, Pakistan has strenuously denied allegations that its security services are colluding with insurgents.
Again, this is nothing new. Back in 2008, US intelligence officials told me that Pakistan was providing details of upcoming Predator strikes to terrorists. Also, Pakistan raided the Haqqanis' main madrassa in Miramshah, North Waziristan in July 2008, only to find it empty.