What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Has ATO infiltrated French intelligence?

Has Asia Times Online infiltrated French intelligence? Are Italian connections behind the Shiite tribal militia fighting Sunni militias in Kurram Agency in the FATA? And who's striking at super-secret FIA-FBI safehouses in Pakistan? Will I ask one more spooky question like these previous ones?
The point is that all the indications are that the Ghost War (a really cool label invented by Steve Coll for the title of his best-selling book about the CIA's operations in Afghanistan) is raging with high intensity and a multitude of players at the South Asia-Central Asia intersection. I wrote just yesterday that Syed Saleem Shahzad's articles sometimes leave me with the impression that I've been treated to a mixture of speculation and a bunch of information operations, but they are also always mighty interesting to read, for example for all the hints in them. Well, kudos to him for again coming up with an interesting article, hinting at all sorts of things that make you ask spooky questions.
Shahzad passes on some interesting hearsay about the March 15th blast at the Luna Caprese Italian restaurant in Islamabad: "The restaurant is co-owned by an Italian woman who is the wife of a man believed to be the main financial backer of anti-Taliban Shi'ites in the northern areas of Pakistan."
Interesting addition to what we know so far, on the basis of which one had to suppose what Arif Rafiq neatly summarised here like this, about the FBI's being targeted:
"Has the Bureau’s operations in Pakistan been compromised? There is a significant likelihood of linkage between Saturday’s attacks and Tuesday’s twin blasts in Lahore. Tuesday’s attacks targeted an FBI-trained unit of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) and a clandestine FIA safe house, said to be visited by U.S. intelligence agents, where terror suspects were interrogated. That a secret FIA installation was hit suggests that, at the very least, an inside source provided information on the targets to the terrorists. And so it’s possible the same source also gave information on the FBI personnel in Islamabad.
The FIA-FBI partnership, so it seems, has been targeted twice in one week."
The FBI's Pakistan operations chief had to be the main target, one feels, even in light of the information from Shahzad quoted further above. And already that, plus taking into account the Lahore attacks, provide reason to believe that the attackers in all these cases had to have some inside help from within Pakistan's security sector. But anyway, surely the Luna Caprese restaurant, popular with all the expats in Islamabad, is an interesting place based on the mentioned rumours, though the claim voiced by Shahzad may be erroneous as well.
Elsewhere Shahzad talks a little about the stepped up role of French intelligence in the region:
"France, cognizant of the revival of the enemy's strength, have greatly enhanced their input into intelligence resources.
French intelligence is directly involved in fresh moves to track the most wanted targets, including Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yaldeshiv, besides bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
New funds have been allocated for clandestine operations by French intelligence in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan regions, as well as in Balochistan province, to track high-profile targets with the aim of assassinating them. This is being done in coordination with NATO forces in Afghanistan.
According to Asia Times Online investigations, French intelligence has infiltrated a network of donors who had been arranging money for the Iraqi resistance and the Taliban."
It's that last line that prompted my giving a teaser title to this post. So Asia Times Online investigated French intelligence? Like, that's massively impressive! Joking aside, there has to be at least an element of truth to all this. Back in February French intelligence agents helped Spain foil an alleged terror plot in Barcelona, thanks to an agent of theirs, mentioned as F-1, who penetrated a suspected terrorist cell of mainly Pakistanis and uncovered their preparations for an attack. And looking beyond the recent past, French intelligence, i.e. the SDECE, took part in the setting up and the training of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI, very early on. So they have more than cursory knowledge of affairs in that corner of the world.
And. At the upcoming April 2-4 Bucharest NATO summit France may announce a deployment of further troops to either Kandahar, or, more likely right now, to eastern Afghanistan, and their involvement is therefore set to increase anyhow in Afghanistan.
Clearly, interesting things are going on.


david santos said...

Great posting, Péter! Thank you.
I loved this blog.
Have a good weekend.

Péter MARTON said...

Thanks, David,
You have a good weekend, too!