Wik­iLeaks: Pak­ista­nis sab­o­taged own air mis­sions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

Pak­istani air­men sab­o­taged their fighter jets to pre­vent them from par­tic­i­pat­ing in op­er­a­tions against mil­i­tants along the bor­der with Afghanistan, ac­cord­ing to a leaked U.S. Em­bassy cable.

An­other cable re­veals that Pak­istan’s army chief asked U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials for “con­tin­u­ous” cov­er­age by Preda­tor drones along that bor­der de­spite crit­i­cism of the strikes by Pak­istani of­fi­cials in pub­lic.

The anti-se­crecy group Wik­iLeaks has pro­vided a batch of U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles to Pak­istan’s Dawn news­pa­per and In­dia’s New Delhi Tele­vi­sion and the Hindu news­pa­per.

A March 2006 cable cites the Pak­istani deputy chief of air staff for op­er­a­tions, Air Vice Mar­shal Khalid Chaudhry, as telling a vis­it­ing U.S. del­e­ga­tion that he was re­ceiv­ing monthly re­ports of acts of “petty sab­o­tage” of jets by air­men.

Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry in­ter­preted these acts as an ef­fort by “Is­lamists amongst the en­listed ranks to pre­vent [Pak­istani air force] air­craft from be­ing de­ployed in sup­port of se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­trated Tribal Ar­eas along the Afghan bor­der,” the cable says.

The U.S. del­e­ga­tion was led by John Hillen, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal-mil­i­tary af­fairs.

An­other cable, sent in Fe­bru­ary 2008, re­vealed that Pak­istan’s army chief, Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, sought “con­tin­u­ous Preda­tor cov­er­age of the con­flict area” in an area along the Afghanistan bor­der where the Pak­istani army was fight­ing mil­i­tants.

In a meet­ing on Jan. 22, 2008, Gen. Kayani asked Navy Adm. Wil­liam J. Fal­lon, who was chief of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, for drone pres­ence over South Waziris­tan.

“Fal­lon re­gret­ted that he did not have the as­sets to sup­port this re­quest, but of­fered Joint Tac­ti­cal Air­craft Con­troller (JTAC) sup­port for Pak­istani air­craft. Kayani de­murred, say­ing that hav­ing U.S. JTACs on the ground would not be po­lit­i­cally ac­cept­able,” ac­cord­ing to the cable.

Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry, speak­ing “off the record,” told Mr. Hillen that Pak­istani air­craft are called reg­u­larly to pro­vide air sup­port to mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity forces when they get into tight spots in the tribal ar­eas near the Afghanistan bor­der, “dryly adding that army brass and the ground forces com­man­ders would deny it,” the cable said.

In a rare pub­lic state­ment this year, Gen. Kayani con­demned a March 17 U.S. drone strike that Pak­istan said killed up to 40 peo­ple in North Waziris­tan.

Most Pak­ista­nis op­pose drone strikes, which they see as a vi­o­la­tion of Pak­istani sovereignty.

U.S. and Pak­istani of­fi­cials have not pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the covert pro­gram.

How­ever, a Pak­istani of­fi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity, cit­ing the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, told The Wash­ing­ton Times that these op­er­a­tions have been car­ried out af­ter ro­bust in­tel­li­gence shar­ing be­tween Pak­istan and the U.S.

The Preda­tor drones are op- er­ated from bases in­side Pak­istan — the Shamsi air base and Ja­cob­a­bad.

U.S. of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts say el­e­ments within Pak­istan’s armed forces and in­tel­li­gence agency, the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence, are re­luc­tant to sever ties with mil­i­tants op­er­at­ing in Afghanistan and In­dia.

“Pak­istani mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against in­sur­gent groups have al­ways been pri­mar­ily fo- cused on threats to Pak­istani se­cu­rity,” said Jef­frey Dressler, a re­search an­a­lyst at the In­sti­tute for the Study of War.

At a Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing two weeks ago, Sen. Christo­pher A. Coons, Delaware Demo­crat, raised ques­tions about Pak­istan’s com­mit­ment to acting against ter­ror­ists.

“I’m deeply dis­turbed by what seems to be a state that leader’s hide-out was barely a mile from the Pak­istan Mil­i­tary Academy at Kakul.

In his meet­ings with the U.S. of­fi­cials, Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry said Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship has a tough time main­tain­ing pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward the U.S. among en­listed per­son­nel.

The cable says he cited the sus­cep­ti­bil­ity of the en­listed

A March 2006 cable cites the Pak­istani deputy chief of air staff for op­er­a­tions, Air Vice Mar­shal Khalid Chaudhry, as telling a vis­it­ing U.S. del­e­ga­tion that he was re­ceiv­ing monthly re­ports of acts of “petty sab­o­tage” of jets by air­men. Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry in­ter­preted these acts as an ef­fort by “Is­lamists amongst the en­listed ranks to pre­vent [Pak­istani air force] air­craft from be­ing de­ployed in sup­port of se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­trated Tribal Ar­eas along the Afghan bor­der,” the cable says.

plays a dou­ble game, that ac­cepts sig­nif­i­cant multi­bil­lion­dol­lar aid from us, com­bats groups that tar­get its own do­mes­tic con­cerns, but then clearly hedges against the U.S. mis­sion in Afghanistan, is an un­even part­ner at best,” he said.

Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden early May 2 in Ab­bot­tabad, a gar­ri­son town about 30 miles from the Pak­istani cap­i­tal, Islamabad. The al Qaeda ranks, most of whom come from ru­ral ar­eas, to the in­flu­ence of Is­lamist cler­ics. “You can’t imag­ine what a hard time we have try­ing to get to trim their beards,” Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry is quoted as say­ing in a cable.

Con­ser­va­tive Mus­lims grow full beards as a sign of piety.

While in Pak­istan, Mr. Hillen heard crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s de­ci­sion not to give Pak­istan a civil nu­clear deal sim­i­lar to the one he struck with In­dia.

A Pak­istani of­fi­cial ex­pressed dis­may at Mr. Bush’s ref­er­ence to rogue nu­clear sci­en­tist, Ab­dul Qadeer Khan, as the rea­son why the U.S. would not of­fer this deal to Islamabad.

Nazir Hus­sain, who at the time was chief of pro­to­col at Pak­istan’s for­eign min­istry, told Mr. Hillen: “Your man cut Mushar­raf off at the knees” with that pub­lic com­ment, ac­cord­ing to the cable. Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf was the Pak­istani pres­i­dent.

Pak­istan was ne­go­ti­at­ing the sale of F-16 fighter jets with the U.S. at the time, and Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry asked Mr. Hillen to en­sure that the deal “has enough sweet­en­ers to ap­peal to the pub­lic - a com­plete squadron of new F-16s, with JDAM and night-vi­sion ca­pa­bil­ity - but not to of­fer the PAF things that it can­not af­ford,” ac­cord­ing to the cable.

Dis­cussing the Chinese JF17 Thun­der jet, a key com­po­nent of Pak­istan’s fighter fleet, Vice Mar­shal Chaudhry ac­knowl­edged that the jet was not com­pa­ra­ble to the U.S. F-16 in terms of qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly its avion­ics and weapons sys­tems.

On a trip to Bei­jing two weeks ago, Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani se­cured a deal in which China will pro­vide Pak­istan with 50 more JF-17s. Pak­istani De­fense Min­is­ter Ah­mad Mukhtar said Pak­istan was seek­ing de­liv­ery of the jets within six months.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pak­istan’s army chief, Gen. Ash­faq Par vez Kayani (right), with Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, sought “con­tin­u­ous Preda­tor cov­er­age of the con­flict area” in an area along the Afghanistan bor­der where the Pak­istani army was fight­ing mil­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to a leaked cable.

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