On March 27, WIRED published a report regarding the meeting January in London between CIA chief David Petraeus and Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha of the Pakistani intelligence service ISI. According to the article, which itself is re-reporting an AP story from the day before, Petraeus offered to Pakistan the following:
~ Scaling back the drone war (the one of which existence can be neither denied nor confirmed),
~ Ending "signature" strikes, the targeting of people suspected to be associated with terrorists but whose identity is unconfirmed.
According to the AP story, which WIRED calls a blockbuster, Pasha turned down the deal.
Pasha went further, saying Pakistan's intelligence service would no longer carry out joint raids with U.S. counterterrorist teams inside its country, as it had in the past. Instead, Pakistan would demand that the U.S. hand over the intelligence, so its forces could pursue targets on their own in urban areas, or send the Pakistani army or jets to attack the targets in the tribal areas, explained a senior Pakistani official.
This version of events has been picked up everywhere, in the U.S. and Pakistan.
CNN picked the story up on March 30.
The Daily Times of Pakistan picked it up on March 28.
Interestingly, despite the fact that WIRED has announced the blockbuster-ishness of the AP story, it's not the first report on a January meeting between Petraeus and Pasha.
On February 25, The Hindu reported on a secret meeting between the two men in January, but taking place in Doha, Qatar. More interestingly, The Hindu reported that the meeting came to a completely different conclusion, such that the ISI would allow the drone war to continue, ending the six week cessation that began on November 26, 2011.
Further, the article states that Pakistan will allow the CIA to expand its presence at the Shahbaz airbase.
The drone agreement, a senior western official familiar with the negotiations told The Hindu, was driven by Pakistani intelligence's desire for greater influence in ongoing negotiations in Doha between the U.S. and the Taliban.It just so happens that on February 24, Pakistan made its first installment of 258.4 Million SDR on a nearly 5 billion SDR loan it agreed to in 2008.
It also reflected, he said, the realisation that the U.S. support would be critical to rescheduling repayment of loans from the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral institutions.
So two meetings, both secret, receiving startlingly different levels of redistribution in the major media, and with diametrically opposed reported outcomes. Why does the AP make no mention of the meeting in Doha reported in The Hindu? Why do none of the republishing enterprises that took and ran with the AP story know about it? What to make of it?
Well, perhaps the original report from The Hindu has a clue about what's going on here.
Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables show that both Pakistan Army Chief Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had secretly authorised the drone campaign, even while opposing it in public.If the government of Pakistan is willing to allow the drone campaign but can't afford to have its citizenry know, this is exactly how it would play out.
Blogger emptywheel speculated about David Petraeus possibly having motive to leak information as one of the "senior defense officials" before laying down a whole series of stories and events that demonstrate the mind-numbingly self-contradicting nature of the CIA's press releases and the FUBAR relationship the CIA has with credibility.
So CTC and congressional aides were complaining that Petraeus reeled in the drone cowboys a month ago, and now someone is leaking a 2 month old memo–offering little proof of whether Crocker still feels the Haqqani needs to be targeted more now that Petraeus restarted the drone strikes–that seemingly implicates Petraeus.Blockbuster story my ass, WIRED. There's a shitload of story here, but the professionals can't be bothered.
And all of this, of course, comes at the same time (on a Saturday?!? Update: The WaPo article came out yesterday) as two other pieces of news. First, the AP story reporting that civilian casualties from drone strikes in Pakistan have not been as high as Pakistanis think. Among the attacks it reports to have killed only militants is one from last August that targeted the Haqqani network.An attack near Miran Shah before dawn on Aug. 10, 2011, was one of six on the AP’s list in which villagers said no civilians died.And, a report from the Hindu saying that Petraeus negotiated with ISI Lieutenant General Shuja Ahmad Pasha back in January before restarting drone strikes, in seeming contradiction to an al Jazeera interview with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a few weeks ago.
A drone fired missiles at a large brick compound, killing at least 20 Afghan and Pakistani Talibanfighters, said Sajjad Ali, a local driver. The compound hit was known as a rest house for militants run by the Haqqani network, an Afghan group focused on fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan, he said.
In any case, at first blush, this appears to be another effort by the national security establishment to undercut the plans to withdraw from Afghanistan. But it seems to serve more as a demand–possibly coming from Congress–for more drone strikes targeting the Haqqanis.