'Even Clinton admn believed ISI would pass intel to al-Qaeda'
Washington: Much before the US carried out the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden without informing Pakistan, the Bill Clinton administration had little faith in Islamabad when it came to sharing important intelligence information, a former top American general said Monday.
Gen (rtd) Stanley McChrystal in his book, "My Share of the Task: A Memoir" which hit the stands today, says that as a result of the lack of trust with the Pakistani leadership, the latter were given just 10 minutes notice when the Clinton Administration launched a barrage of missiles in August, 1998, entering the Pakistani airspace.
"So they gave the Pakistanis notice, but just barely: Over a late-night chicken tikka dinner in Islamabad on the night of August 20 (1998), Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston told the head of the Pakistani army, General Jehangir Karamat, that in ten minutes, missiles would be entering Pakistani airspace," McChrystal wrote.
"Prior to the strike, US officials feared the Pakistanis would think the US missiles crossing over their country were from India. But they worried more that members of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment would tip off the Taliban or bin Laden about the impending strike," McChrystal, a former US general in Afghanistan, said.
"Not only were the Pakistanis kept in the dark, but they also lost men. Some of the buildings blown apart by the missiles were in fact used by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), killing, by some accounts, five of its intelligence officers and twenty of its trainees. The event left the Pakistani leadership irate and the Americans ever more skeptical, asking why Pakistani officers were near bin Laden's camps in the first place," he wrote in his latest book.
McChrystal said the relationship continued to degrade.
McChrystal had to resign as the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan after the publication of an article in the Rolling Stone in which he was quoted as being highly critical of the Obama Administration.
The US conducted a daring raid in May, 2011, on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan and killed the dreaded al-Qaeda chief.
"After bin Laden disappeared into the snow-tracked Afghan mountains, the US increasingly pressured the government of Pakistan to intervene with bin Laden's hosts, the Taliban, who received significant patronage from Pakistan, to turn him over," McChrystal wrote.
"These demands were met with indignant replies. 'Quite honestly,' one Pakistani official complained in a New Yorker article printed during the winter I spent at CFR, 'what would Pakistan gain by going into Afghanistan and snatching bin Laden for you? We are the most heavily sanctioned United States ally. We helped you capture Ramzi Yousef...And all we got were thank-you notes,'" the general wrote.
The general further quotes the Pakistani official as saying, "You lobbed missiles across our territory with no advance warning! You humiliated our government! You killed Pakistani intelligence officers!'
"So started, long before we knew how much it would matter, an unhealthy tradition of American administrations, skeptical of Pakistan's allegiance, demanding that the Pakistanis bring them bin Laden, all the while leaving the Pakistanis feeling less and less like an ally and feeling less inclined to act that way," McChrystal said.