Tag: ISI


On September 13, 2011, the Haqqani network perpetrated a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, a coordinated assault involving suicide bombers and rocket fire that killed 25. During congressional testimony the following week, US Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of facilitating the attacks, saying “The actions by the Pakistani government to support [the Haqqani Network]—actively and passively—represent a growing problem that is undermining U.S. interests.” Although the Pakistani government has denied the US allegations, tensions between the two countries continue to rise, threatening to further destabilize an already fragile alliance.



Mark Mazzetti, Scott Shane & Alissa J. Rubin
NY Times, September 24, 2011

They are the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds. They safeguard their mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases. And they are accused by American officials of being guns for hire: a proxy force used by the Pakistani intelligence service to carry out grisly, high-profile attacks in Kabul and throughout the country. Today, American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan known as the Haqqani network—led by a wizened militant named Jalaluddin Haqqani…—the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan.

In the latest of a series of ever bolder strikes, the group staged a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged [last Thursday] was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. According to two American officials, cellphones used by the attackers made calls to suspected ISI operatives before the attack, although top Pakistani officials deny their government played any role.

But even as the Americans pledge revenge against the Haqqanis, and even amid a new debate in the Obama administration about how to blunt the group’s power, there is a growing belief that it could be too late.… Responsible for hundreds of American deaths, the Haqqanis probably will outlast the United States troops in Afghanistan and command large swaths of territory there once the shooting stops. American military officers, who have spent years urging Washington to take action against the Haqqanis, express anger that the Obama administration has still not put the group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations out of concern that such a move would scuttle any chances that the group might make peace with Afghanistan’s government.…

The Haqqanis have expanded their reach and numbers as top American officials have tried repeatedly over the last decade to berate and cajole officials in Pakistan to cut ties to a group it considers essential for its own security, all with little effect.… Now largely run by two of Mr. Haqqani’s sons, who experts say are even more committed Islamists than their father, the network is in a position of strength as the United States tries to broker a peace deal in Afghanistan before pulling its troops from the country.…

With a combination of guns and muscle, the Haqqani network has built a sprawling enterprise on both sides of a border that barely exists. The Haqqanis are Afghan members of the Zadran tribe, but it is in the town of Miram Shah in Pakistan’s tribal areas where they have set up a mini-state with courts, tax offices and radical madrasa schools producing a ready supply of fighters. They secretly run a network of front companies throughout Pakistan selling cars and real estate, and have been tied to at least two factories churning out the ammonium nitrate used to build roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

American intelligence officials believe that a steady flow of money from wealthy people in the gulf states helps sustain the Haqqanis, and that they further line their pockets with extortion and smuggling operations throughout eastern Afghanistan.… They are also in the kidnapping business, with a mix of pecuniary and ideological motives. In May, the group released the latest of a series of videos showing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American infantryman held by the network since June 2009, with a Haqqani official.…

Over the past five years, with relatively few American troops operating in eastern Afghanistan, the Haqqanis have run what is in effect a protection racket for construction firms—meaning that American taxpayers are helping to finance the enemy network.… But the group is not just a two-bit mafia enriching itself with shakedown schemes. It is an organized militia using high-profile terrorist attacks on hotels, embassies and other targets to advance its agenda to become a power broker in a future political settlement. And, sometimes, the agenda of its patrons from Pakistan’s spy service, the ISI.

Last month, Afghanistan’s National Intelligence Directorate released recordings of phone calls intercepted during the June 28 attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. In the exchanges, Haqqani network leaders in Pakistan instruct their operatives in the hotel to shoot the locks off rooms, throw in grenades and make sure no one escapes. Later, as a fire blazes, the recordings capture the voice of Badruddin Haqqani, one of Jalaluddin’s sons.… More than a dozen people were killed in the attack, which American officials say they think was carried out with some ISI help.…

According to a senior American military official, cross-border attacks by the Haqqanis into Afghanistan have increased more than fivefold this year over the same period a year ago, and roadside bomb attacks are up 20 percent compared with last year. For years, American officials have urged Pakistan to move against the Haqqanis’ base of operations in North Waziristan. They typically are rebuffed by military and intelligence officials in Islamabad.…

As a result, the United States has fallen back on a familiar strategy: missiles fired from armed drones operated by the C.I.A. But because the Haqqani network’s leaders are thought to be hiding in populated towns like Miram Shah, where the C.I.A. is hesitant to carry out drone strikes, American officials said that the campaign has had only limited success against the group’s leadership.

A quarter-century ago, the Haqqani fighters were not the targets of C.I.A. missiles. They were the ones shooting C.I.A.-supplied missiles, the shoulder-fired Stingers that would devastate Soviet air power over Afghanistan. Jalaluddin Haqqani was in temporary alliance with the United States against its greater adversary, the Soviet Union, just as his network today is allied with a Pakistan that sees Afghanistan as a critical buffer against its greater adversary, India.…

On Feb. 19, 2009, the day before Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s new senior military commander, was due in Washington for his first meetings with the Obama administration, the American Embassy in Islamabad sent a classified cable to the State Department. American officials believed that General Kayani, Pakistan’s onetime spymaster, had for years overseen Pakistan’s covert support for militant groups like the Haqqani network, and the cable offered blunt advice about the coming talks. “The single biggest message Kayani should hear in Washington is that this support must end,” said the cable, written by Ambassador Anne W. Patterson.

In the 30 months since, few in Washington believe that Pakistan’s support of armed militia groups has diminished.…

The new urgency for a political settlement in Afghanistan has further limited Washington’s options for fighting the Haqqani network. During high-level discussions last year, Obama administration officials debated listing the group as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” which allows for some assets to be frozen and could dissuade donors from supporting the group. While some military commanders pushed for the designation, the administration ultimately decided that such a move might alienate the Haqqanis and drive them away from future negotiations.… But as Washington struggles to broker an endgame for the Afghan war, there is widespread doubt about whether the Haqqanis will negotiate, and whether their patrons in Islamabad will even let them.…

“Is there any formula for Pakistan to agree to stop supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and instead help broker and be satisfied with a political settlement?” asked Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as both America’s top military commander in Afghanistan and its ambassador to the country. “We don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.


Daniel S. Markey

Foreign Policy, September 23, 2011

On Sept. 22, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress that the Haqqani network, the group that launched the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, is a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Public testimony has been matched by tough talk in private, including in meetings between CIA chief David Petraeus and ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha and between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Washington is launching a full-court press to show that it will no longer sit idly by while terrorist groups, abetted by the ISI, kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. Never before have we seen this sort of high-level, across-the-board pressure from the U.S. government. And never before have U.S. demands on Islamabad to get tough on the Haqqani network been coupled with what—at least implicitly—sound like threats of significantly expanded U.S. unilateral action inside Pakistan.

At surface level, these statements require no explanation at all. If Washington has ample evidence of ISI complicity, then how can it possibly look the other way, much less continue to provide assistance to the Pakistani government and military?

But the reality is that evidence of ISI support for Haqqani operations in Afghanistan is hardly new. Back in July 2008, Washington made similar claimsof Pakistani complicity when the Indian Embassy in Kabul was bombed. Since then, however, U.S. military and civilian aidto Pakistan has increased, in part reflecting American hopes that carrots, rather than sticks, will be more likely to shift Pakistan’s behavior.

In the past, Washington always tempered its criticism of Pakistan for fear that pushing too hard might break the relationship in ways that would cause more harm than good. U.S. officials have always known that the major supply lines for American forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan’s ports, highways, and airspace.…

What has changed? There are probably two reasons behind Washington’s newly aggressive posture.

First, U.S. military leverage in the region is a diminishing asset. Washington can make threats now that will be less credible in a year or two. NATO force levels in Afghanistan are at their zenith, so if there is ever going to be a time for credible threats to expand the conflict into the Pakistani tribal areas where the Haqqani network is headquartered, it is now.

Second, Washington believes it has relatively little to lose in its bilateral relationship with Pakistan. To be sure, much is still at stake. Supply routes to Afghanistan and bilateral ties with a nuclear-armed state are nothing to sneeze at. But the calculation has to do with relative losses, not absolute ones. As U.S. officials peer into the future, they see little reason to expect that relations with Islamabad are likely to improve. Indeed, there’s precious little evidence to suggest that the trajectory of the U.S.-Pakistan relations will go anywhere but downhill. If there is already a realistic chance that this relationship will rupture and that the benefits of bilateral cooperation will eventually be lost, why not press Pakistan now while Washington still enjoys some positive leverage and before relations hit rock bottom?…

But Pakistan also has cards to play in its escalating bout with the United States.… Pakistan is likely to remind Washington that it controls the ground supply routes into Afghanistan, perhaps by halting or delaying entry or by allowing shipments to be destroyed. Both of these steps have been taken in the past. And it could get far, far worse than that. Pakistan could close its airspace to American overflights, end remaining military and intelligence cooperation, deny visas to U.S. officials, enable militant attacks on U.S. Embassy employees and facilities, and shoot down the U.S. drones that still fly over Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Would Washington be willing and able to respond to each of these steps? Perhaps; but it won’t be easy. The United States could take the costly step of shifting ground supply routes to Afghanistan to run through Russia and Central Asia, along the so-called Northern Distribution Network; negotiate new agreements for airborne shipments and personnel; substitute drones with less-discriminating, higher-flying bombers that can evade Pakistani air defenses; and launch commando raids into Pakistan supported by a surged conventional presence on Afghanistan’s eastern border.

These are ugly options. They could get even uglier. But this is now the reality, with Washington having taken such an aggressive, public stance against its erstwhile ally.… Faced with such terribly high stakes, the question now is which side will blink first, and when.


Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, September 18, 2011

Is there any sponsor of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East that the Obama Administration hasn’t tried to sponsor?

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Radio Pakistan, September 17: “The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani network.… There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.”

Do you realize the significance of those two sentences? It goes something like this:

-The United States gives billions of dollars to the Pakistani government to fight terrorism.

-Instead, the Pakistani government doesn’t do that very much. Remember where Osama bin Ladin was hanging out without Pakistan’s regime doing anything?

-The Pakistani government gives money to al-Qaida and Taliban-linked terrorists—the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network and other terrorists sponsored by Pakistan murder hundreds of people in India. They also attack Americans.

-A week ago, the Haqqani Network attacked the U.S. Embassy with rocket-propelled grenades. It took the Pakistani military 20 hours to get them out of a nearby building.

-Thus, U.S. taxpayers are paying money to the Pakistani government to fight terrorists attacking America that the government then uses to help terrorists attack America.

Might this be a problem? Could this be a central example of the insanity of U.S. policy that also, for example, gives money to the Palestinian Authority which is allied to Hamas, a genocidal, anti-American group, and successfully pressed Israel to reduce sanctions so that the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip can flourish.

And Obama Administration policy was nice to Syria for 2.5 years, until it literally was forced to change that policy, despite the fact that Syria’s regime was giving money to kill Americans in Iraq. It also tried to be nice to Iran but Iranian intransigence and domestic pressure finally made it impose more sanctions.

The Obama Administration has also made the Turkish regime its favorite Middle East ally despite that government’s support for Hamas, Hizballah, and Turkish Islamist groups. It has even to some degree become the patron of the Egyptian and Syrian Muslim Brotherhoods which are profoundly anti-American, pro-terrorist groups.

In ordinary times, this sort of thing would be a major scandal. Front-page media stories would daily skewer the Obama Administration for aiding, abetting, and financing major sponsors of terrorism. Academic experts would pour on scorn; members of Congress would demand investigations. Yet in this era nothing happens.

The U.S. ambassador, under instructions from Washington, stamps his foot and says that Pakistani government support for anti-American and murderous terrorism “must stop.” But it won’t stop. And the Obama Administration won’t do anything about it.…





Peter Oborne
The Telegraph, May 4, 2011


Nobody could fault them. The Khans were good neighbours, always polite, and more than a cut above the rest. They spoke perfect Pashtu—the language of Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas—in a cultivated, urban accent. They were careful to pay their bills on time and popular with local shopkeepers.

Women and children came and went, travelling mostly in a red Suzuki van. The family were well off, telling locals that they had made their money trading gold. Certainly, they were reclusive. The imposing house in Abbottabad had high walls and was fortified by barbed wire. They never handed out their phone numbers. There were no telephones in the house, and no Internet. The house did not have satellite TV—an obligatory feature of any house of any size in Pakistan. The Khans even burned their own rubbish, leaving no traces of what they had consumed.

When children playing cricket knocked balls into their compound they were never allowed in to find them. Instead the Khans would pay them 100 rupees as compensation.

But nobody made anything of it. Neighbours simply assumed that the head of the household, who called himself Arshad Khan, had, like many other Pakistan businessmen, made some powerful enemies on his road to riches.

Now they know that the secret the “Khans” were hiding was Osama bin Laden, and “Mr Khan” was in all likelihood one of his most trusted couriers, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.…

Surveying the scene, it is impossible to understand how the mysterious and aloof Khan family eluded the security experts of the Pakistan army and intelligence services.… Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, even disclosed that he jogged regularly past the compound whenever he visited Abbottabad.…

It is likely that, inadvertently or by design, it was the Khans who betrayed bin Laden. The U.S. claimed that the couriers were spotted on one of their trips and followed. But many in Abbottabad have a different theory.

Many I spoke to believed that the feared ISI—the intelligence arm of the Pakistan state—must have known that the Khans’ safe house harboured the world’s most wanted man. In the end bin Laden may have been turned in [as part of] a grand bargain between America and Pakistan.…


Michael Hirsh

National Journal, May 5, 2011


“We are with you unstintingly.” Those were the words that then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said to the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, just after 9/11. Musharraf’s promise proved to be largely a lie—but not entirely untrue. Ever since then, whether the Pakistani regime was autocratic or democratic, Islamabad has played a well-thought-out double game with the United States that’s involved handing over some jihadis and protecting others for Pakistan’s own purposes.

And what of the biggest quarry of all—Osama bin Laden? Is there some way of explaining how the al-Qaida leader could spend the last six years ensconced in a large and obtrusive villa in Abbottabad, surrounded by the Pakistani military, without anyone in Pakistani officialdom knowing about it?

No, there probably isn’t—and in many ways it’s unsurprising that if the Pakistani authorities knew bin Laden was there, his whereabouts might have been, shall we say, closely held. CIA officials have known for years that when it came to the really big game, such as bin Laden, Pakistani authorities were unlikely to be cooperative: They feared that backlash from the Muslim world and their own society would be too great if they were seen as playing stooges to the Americans and violating Pashtun tribal loyalties.

“My bet is they knew he was there,” Chamberlin [said recently]. “The fear of backlash is part of it. And Pashtun culture is you don’t give up people who’ve helped you, and he goes back to 1980s,” when the mujahideen movement bin Laden was a part of served both U.S. and Pakistani interests against the Soviets.

Pakistan occupies a unique position in American foreign policy. “Any other country, we’d be calling them a state sponsor of terrorism,” said a former senior U.S. diplomat. “It’s inconceivable that we give $3 billion a year to a country that would harbor Osama bin Laden.”

Why does Washington do this—and why is Washington virtually certain to continue providing aid to Pakistan despite the hue and cry in Congress over the bin Laden news? Because Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country that is still mainly secular. Washington has little choice but to support those secular strains and tamp down the Islamist ones, and it can’t do this without the help of the Pakistani government, military, and intelligence apparatus, though it is shot through with Islamist sympathizers.

Critics such as Gary Schroen, the former CIA station chief in neighboring Afghanistan, have noted the Pakistani pattern of giving up second-rate Taliban or al-Qaida leaders only to ameliorate American mistrust, then retreating. To maintain his power, Musharraf cut deals with the religious parties that gave extremists succor, in particular the coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, or United Action Committee). In the last decade it was Pakistan’s rogue chief nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan (who is still under government protection)—not Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong Il—who was the most dangerous liaison to would-be nuclear terrorists.

At the same time the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus has grown more cooperative in certain areas as they have become convinced the jihadists they once nurtured as an Islamist counterweight to their fearsome rival, India, have also turned against them. Pakistan helped capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational kingpin of 9/11, in 2003, and in the years since it has turned over other leading al-Qaida figures. This was partly the result of foolish overreaching by the extremists. As Taliban forces moved into Swat Valley they sought to impose harsh Islamic law and sowed indiscriminate violence that left a bitter taste, prompting support when Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kayani directed a successful offensive there. Ironically, Pakistani authorities grew so consumed by their own homegrown threats that they may have paid less attention to al-Qaida figures such as bin Laden in their midst.…

All of which helps to explain why President Obama’s counterterrorism coordinator, John Brennan, declared on Monday: “Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any country, and it’s by a wide margin. And there have been many, many brave Pakistani soldiers, security officials, as well as citizens, who have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that country.”

One big clue into understanding Pakistan’s double game can be found in the scholarly work of the country’s current ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. In 2005, when he was still considered a dissident to Musharraf’s regime, Haqqani published a book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, which said radical Islamists would always have a safe haven inside the country as long as military strongmen ran Islamabad. Haqqani argued that Pakistani leaders going back to the nation’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Pakistani generals have constantly used the unifying principle of Islam and the perceived threat from Hindu India to build a national identity. This helps explain everything from the military’s decades-old effort to build up an Islamist insurgency in disputed Kashmir to Islamabad’s successful strategy of aiding and building up the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan during the 1990s.

But it has proved to be something of a Faustian bargain. Many jihadists the Pakistanis once considered “theirs” have since aligned themselves with the Taliban or al-Qaida, and even launched plots against Kayani and other Pakistani officials. Because the Pakistani military’s main strategic imperative continues to be building counterweights to India—including Islamist insurgents—only democracy “can gradually wean the country from Islamic extremism,” Haqqani wrote.

Haqqani’s thesis is still untested, to a degree. While Musharraf has been ousted and Pakistan is nominally democratic under President Asif Ali Zardari—the husband of assassinated Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto—the country is still effectively ruled by the military. And the Pakistani military’s interests haven’t changed.


Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

Pajamas Media, May 3, 2011


Americans have had a rude awakening. The military’s liquidation of Osama bin Laden a few days ago in a million-dollar, heavily secured compound close by a Pakistani military academy has brought home to many what had previously been understood by only a few: One of the nations officially deemed a key ally in the so-called “War on Terror” has been playing us for fools.

It is called a double game and here’s how you play it: First, you cooperate in some respects with the United States in countering the “terrorists” the Americans seek to capture, kill, or at least neutralize. In return, you get paid handsomely for it—in the case of Pakistan, that translates into an annual U.S. allotment of some $3 billion and access to American intelligence, weapons, and political support. In parallel, however, you systematically sabotage the whole effort by cooperating extensively with our enemies, some of whom you support, more or less directly.

Pakistan happens to be a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon. For decades, Pakistani officials—notably in Islamabad’s intelligence agency, the ISI—have been tied to and supportive of Islamists at home and in neighboring nations. Without such assistance, the international campaign led by the United States aimed at liberating and securing Afghanistan would likely have been considerably more successful and vastly less costly.

Bin Laden’s hiding-in-plain-sight lair 35 miles from the Pakistani capital has become the most glaring example of an endemic problem: the safe havens and other forms of protection Pakistan has afforded to those seeking to murder Americans. Denials, such as that of the Pakistani president in Monday’s Washington Post, are, to put it charitably, unpersuasive.

To varying degrees, U.S. allies elsewhere in the so-called “Muslim world” have also engaged in double games with us. For example, the Saudis have helped counter al-Qaeda inside their kingdom, even as they fund its operations and those of others, like the Muslim Brotherhood, who share the violent jihadists’ goal of imposing the politico-military-legal program known as shariah under a global ruler, the caliph.

Similarly, throughout his 30-year rule, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak maintained a cold peace with Israel and “cooperated” by sharing terrorism-related intelligence, for which his country received lavish U.S. funding and advanced armaments. Yet, he also allowed his state-controlled media, mosques, and educational system to fan rabid anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment. Thanks in part to this indoctrination, Egypt’s “awakening” is likely to translate into an open-ended nightmare, as the Brotherhood parlays such popular attitudes into an electoral mandate and then begins enforcing shariah.

Unfortunately, the dangers associated with relying upon such manifestly unreliable “allies” are greatly compounded by official Washington’s own version of the double game. At the same time successive administrations have waged what President Obama called Sunday “the war against al-Qaeda,” cabinet officers, law enforcement personnel, military leaders, and intelligence operatives have systematically engaged in “outreach” to the Muslim-American community via known U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood front organizations. In so doing, these groups have been legitimated, enabled to engage in successful influence operations, and emboldened in their bid to achieve the same end-state to which al-Qaeda and other violent jihadists aspire: our submission to shariah.

Now, we know (from, among other sources, evidence entered into evidence uncontested in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism conspiracy trial in Texas) that the Brotherhood in the United States has as its mission “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.” Accordingly, after the first round of prosecutions in that case were successfully concluded, the U.S. attorney in Dallas sought permission from the Justice Department to indict several senior Muslim Brotherhood figures who had been previously listed as unindicted co-conspirators.

Washington’s version of the double game is evident in the Justice Department’s rejection of that request. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that his department had taken that step, but claimed that he was simply following the lead of the Bush administration before him. The fact that the Bush team was also guilty of playing the double game is no excuse. That is especially the case since, as former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy has decisively explained, in the aftermath of the convictions of the first five Holy Land defendants, the case for charging Omar Ahmed of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other alleged co-conspirators is considerably stronger today than it was back in 2004.

Abraham Lincoln famously observed that “a house divided cannot stand.” The same can be said of a government or nation that seeks simultaneously to defeat an enemy and assist it. The United States cannot safely rely on other nations who behave in that fashion. And it certainly cannot continue to behave that way itself.


Matt Gurney
National Post, May 5, 2011


The more we learn about the events that led up to the death of Osama bin Laden, the more frightening it becomes to recall Pakistan is a nuclear power.

That bin Laden was found living in relative luxury a stone’s throw from the Pakistani military’s elite training academy, in a garrison town no less, forces the West to reconsider whether we have any friends inside the Pakistani government and security apparatus at all.

Typically, the military has been considered the most reliable, pro-Western element of the Pakistani power structure, in contrast with the thoroughly Islamist and pro-Taliban intelligence services and the weak civilian government trapped in between.

We know better now. It is not believable that the world’s most-wanted man could live in the heart of a military town, only 1,000 metres from the Kakul academy (Pakistan’s West Point), for years without being detected.

Pakistan obviously cannot admit to outright complicity in bin Laden’s 10-year flight from justice, but its only other defence is to claim its military—a valued cultural institution—is incompetent, and the troops given the job of securing the country’s borders had no idea what was in their backyard.

In its embarrassment, it has opted for silence, or to pointing out no one else outside Pakistan knew where he was, either.

Whether the Pakistani military is disloyal or inept, neither option is good for the West. In recent years, major activity has been noted at many of the country’s nuclear weapons facilities, as it is believed to be enlarging and modernizing its stockpile of nuclear warheads.

Estimates about the size of its arsenal put it at doubling to 100-200 bombs. The bombs themselves are, thanks to modernization, becoming smaller and more powerful. It is likely Pakistani nuclear weapons are now capable of achieving yields in the hundreds of kilotons—many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, and certainly capable of hollowing out any major city.

Pakistan has repeatedly tried to reassure the world its arsenal is safe and secure.

A 2008 U.S. congressional report noted the weapons are stored in secure underground facilities, unassembled and separate from their launchers. While that might sound comforting, the fact remains the security of these weapons rests in the hands of those who somehow missed bin Laden’s mansion just down the street from their training facility and who get their information from the same intelligence services that consider the Taliban a strategic asset, not an enemy.

It’s hard for the Pakistanis to ask for our trust when the only way to avoid admitting guilt is to play dumb.

It is obvious why Pakistan feels it needs nuclear weapons—only through their power can they hope to stave off an attack by the much more economically and militarily powerful Indians. They will never give them up. But the risk posed by leaving the ultimate weapon in such obviously unreliable hands cannot be overstated.

For the sake of the world’s safety, we must hope the United States keeps a close eye on where these weapons are stored and is prepared to do what’s necessary to prevent them from ever falling into the wrong hands…those who would avenge bin Laden or strike out at those who have humiliated the country before the world.