‘Panetta sought parallel intelligence body in Pak’

Former CIA head and current US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, had wanted to establish a parallel spy body inside Pakistan hidden from ISI.

Washington: Former CIA head and current US
Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, had wanted to establish a parallel spy body inside Pakistan hidden from ISI, a noted Pakistani author said, adding the idea was approved by the
Obama Administration.

In his latest book "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of
America, Pakistan and Afghanistan", Ahmed Rashid said such a
recommendation by Panetta, who then headed the CIA, was given
sometime after September 2009.

The book, published by Viking, hit the stands yesterday.

"Starting in September 2009, over several weeks, Obama
conducted a long assessment of his options. The military
wanted Obama to consider only three: dispatching 10,000
trainers, sending 40,000 troops, or sending 8,000 troops,"
Rashid wrote.

He said that there was little discussion of Afghanistan`s
strategic political issues, such as its growing political and
ethnic divisions, its economy, relations with Karzai, or the
readiness of the Taliban for talks.

However, Pakistan occupied a lot of discussion but yielded
few political answers, Rashid wrote.

"Instead Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, presented
a list of clandestine counterterrorism operations that the CIA
wanted to conduct in Pakistan, such as stepping up drone
attacks, raising the number of CIA agents and covert
contractors, and even setting up a parallel intelligence
organisation that would be hidden from the ISI," Rashid said.

"The CIA`s recommendations were accepted, but they soon
led to a complete breakdown of relations with Pakistan. Once
again missing from the White House debates were in-depth
consultations with Pakistani and Afghan leaders," writes the
Pakistani author.

Rashid, the author of bestselling "Taliban" however does
not give any detail of such a parallel US intelligence inside
Pakistan, but does goes out to say that by 2011, CIA`s role
inside the country had expanded multiple times.

"In 2011, the CIA is running thirty Predator and Reaper
drones, a network of Pakistani agents inside FATA to provide
targeting information, and a clandestine Afghan militia that
enters Pakistan to provide intelligence on the Taliban.

"Earlier US agreements with Pakistan about where and how
many drones would be fired no longer hold, and in 2011
Pakistan has demanded, futilely, that all drone strikes
cease," he wrote.

Rashid writes that both the Pakistani and the Afghan
governments resented the fact that a major US escalation of
troops was being undertaken without consulting them or
soliciting their views.

PTI

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