Pakistani intelligence and military officials are stepping up their quiet battle against the U.S., NPR's Julie McCarthy reported this morning in a must-listen story. How bad have things gotten? An unnamed Pakistani intelligence official in Islamabad is revealing how many American intelligence and special operations personnel are in Pakistan today: As many as 60 CIA or other spooky types, and more than 120 special operators or Special Forces guys. The fact that the Pakistani intelligence community is leaking these details to American reporters is a clear signal there's been a breakdown between it and the Americans.
It's not that the Americans are there, the official told McCarthy -- it's that Washington won't read in Pakistani officials on what everyone is doing. Islamabad is still dealing with the public opinion firestorm over the Raymond Davis affair, and it needs to show a domestic audience, as much as its "allies" in Washington, that it's getting tough on armed foreign agents inside its borders. Pakistanis also continue to hate the CIA's Predator strikes, but the regular street protests against them mean there's no need for targeted leaks to the Western media.
It's easy to understand why officials in CIA and the Pentagon aren't eager to reveal everything to the Pakistani intelligence services, which are showing how wily they are with these whisper campaigns, even as they also proclaim how much they want to be honest partners with Washington. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been accused of tipping off terror suspects before CIA Predator attacks, and of keeping ties with all manner of bad guys across the Subcontinent. So people in Washington apparently don't trust it any more than its leaders in Islamabad trust them.
The detail about 120 special operators or Special Forces guys is especially interesting, and if you listen to McCarthy's story you'll note that the intelligence official who talked to her declined to say how many more of these guys have been coming into the country lately. So it's unclear whether that number refers to the standing number of SF trainers who are working with Pakistani troops, or whether it could include black-S0F guys who have been hunting militants in the ungoverned tribal regions. If there are American special operators based in Pakistan, as opposed to the ones we know probably commute from bases in Afghanistan, that would be a very interesting development.