TERRORISM PLOT: PAKISTAN'S PR OFFENSIVE. In the 24 hours that have passed since the world learned of the alleged plot to blow a number of airliners bound from London to the United States, I have been taken with the pains to which officials have gone to highlight the reported role of Pakistani intelligence operatives in cracking the plot. What raised my antennae when the praise of Pakistan commenced is the well-known role of the official Pakistani intelligence operation in the care and feeding of both al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban, with which coalition forces are now engaged in a fierce guerrilla conflict.
It has been widely reported in the South Asian press that Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who headed Pakistan's Inter-Services Directorate (ISI) -- the Pakistani counterpart to our CIA -- during the 9-11 attacks had ties to the plotters, and may have even provided them with cash. Although Ahmed was dismissed after it was suspected that he tipped off the Taliban to a coming U.S. offensive, the ISI is so heavily populated with Taliban sympathizers that the Ahmed dismissal is unlikely to have turned its allegiances elsewhere.
Here in the United States, the current war with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan has been overshadowed by the mess in Iraq and the disaster in Lebanon, but other members of the coalition doing battle with the extremists there are taking notice with each body that is shipped home. And it appears that, in addition to its Northwest Frontier Territory, another Pakistani province has joined in the fight against the U.S. coalition -- reportedly with the help of the ISI. In today's Toronto Star, Hugh Graham explains how, with the likely help of the ISI, the Taliban are moving drugs and materiel through the "restive" province of Baluchistan.
As Pakistan touts its purported role in foiling the Heathrow plot, I took note that, in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, correspondent Bahzad Alam Khan described the "unspecified number" of people arrested yesterday in Pakistan as "British nationals, believed to be Muslims" -- not as Pakistani citizens.
--Adele M. Stan