Two Ways of Looking at Our Covert War in Pakistan

Two Ways of Looking at Our Covert War in Pakistan

Two Ways of Looking at Our Covert War in Pakistan

A blog about politics, sports, media, stuff
Dec. 20 2010 2:51 PM

Two Ways of Looking at Our Covert War in Pakistan

 

What happened in Pakistan last week? Over the weekend, the New York Times had a front-page piece summing it up:

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WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was removed from the country on Thursday amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some American officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.

The American spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between two uneasy allies, with the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan hinging on the cooperation of Pakistan in the hunt for militants in the mountains that border those two countries. The tensions could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan.

Escalating war of recriminations? Is anything else escalating?


As the cloak-and-dagger drama was playing out in Islamabad, 100 miles to the west the C.I.A. was expanding its covert war using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, C.I.A. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas in Pakistan that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar.
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It's not that the news about our ongoing Pakistani war-war isn't there, in this account of one American official's difficulties and the accompanying international diplomatic tensions. It's just that the information is sort of upside-down and backwards. There are diplomatic tensions because we are fighting a full-on undeclared war on the territory of a country with which we are an ally, using covert agents as the commanding officers. Here's a rearranged version of the Times story, built out of material that was scattered throughout the piece, mostly lower down:


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded its covert war in Pakistan using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, C.I.A. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar.

Earlier in the week, a legal complaint was filed in Pakistan on behalf of Kareem Khan, a resident of North Waziristan who said that his son and brother were killed in a drone strike. Mr. Khan is seeking $500 million in compensation, and accusing C.I.A.'s top clandestine officer in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, of running a clandestine spying operation out of the United States Embassy.

The complaint sought police help in keeping the station chief in the country until a lawsuit could be filed. The station chief was removed from the country on Thursday.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer who brought the case against the C.I.A., said it would continue despite the station chief’s absence.

"My brother and son were innocent," Mr. Khan said in a recent interview. "There were no Taliban hiding in my house."

Western and Pakistani intelligence officials said, however, that the drone attack also killed Haji Omer, a senior commander allied with the Haqqani militant network and Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the C.I.A. has continued to pummel parts of the tribal areas with missiles. On Thursday, a C.I.A. drone launched a strike in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber Agency, where Pakistani militants are believed to have fled to escape military operations in other parts of the tribal belt. Three more strikes followed on Friday, a Pakistani government official said, killing dozens of militant suspects.

It's all in the emphasis. We are so used to not quite paying attention to the fact that our country is fighting a covert war in Pakistan, the Times doesn't even put the war in the foreground. Is the legal complaint really that the C.I.A. station chief was running a "clandestine spying operation"—of course he was; he's the C.I.A. station chief—or that he was calling in air strikes that were killing people?

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Don't miss the accompanying

of the combat zone. Very little of the map covers Afghanistan, the country in which we are officially and overtly at war. Our country is fighting a covert war in Pakistan, commanded by clandestine operatives. The Pakistanis know this. We know this. The people of indeterminate nationality who are being blown up by drones know this. From whom is the war a secret, that it has to be fought by secret agents?