Endgame: Pakistan arrests five people for ... helping the U.S. kill Bin Laden

Before every divorce, after years of trying to make it work, there comes a moment when the couple realizes that things are irretrievably broken. I thought that moment had come when we found the world’s most famous terrorist living a mile up the road from Pakistan’s national military academy, but some romances don’t fade so easily, I guess.

After this, though, I must sadly conclude that this marriage can’t be saved.

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan…

Over the past several weeks the Pakistani military has been distancing itself from American intelligence and counterterrorism operations against militant groups in Pakistan. This has angered many in Washington who believe that Bin Laden’s death has shaken Al Qaeda and that there is now an opportunity to further weaken the terrorist organization with more raids and armed drone strikes.

But in recent months, dating approximately to when a C.I.A. contractor killed two Pakistanis on a street in the eastern city of Lahore in January, American officials said that Pakistani spies from the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, have been generally unwilling to carry out surveillance operations for the C.I.A.. The Pakistanis have also resisted granting visas allowing American intelligence officers to operate in Pakistan, and have threatened to put greater restrictions on the drone flights.

A deputy CIA director told a Senate committee last week that, on a scale of one to 10, Pakistani counterterror cooperation is down to a three. What would it take to get down to one, I wonder? Finding Zawahiri living in an apartment above ISI headquarters? Yesterday, in fact, House Intel Committee Chair Mike Rogers became the first prominent U.S. pol to publicly accuse “elements” in Pakistan’s military and intel service of sheltering Bin Laden — and not just because of where Osama was found. Because of stuff like this too:

Twice in recent weeks, the United States provided Pakistan with the specific locations of insurgent bomb-making factories, only to see the militants learn their cover had been blown and vacate the sites before military action could be taken, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Overhead surveillance video and other information was given to Pakistani officials in mid-May, officials said, as part of a trust-building effort by the Obama administration after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid early last month. But Pakistani military units that arrived at the sites in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan on June 4 found them abandoned…

A senior Pakistani military official said Friday that the United States had also shared information about other sites, including weapons-storage facilities, that were similarly found empty. “There is a suspicion that perhaps there was a tip-off,” the official said.

Panetta flew to Pakistan and showed the surveillance video personally to Kayani and Pasha, the respective heads of the country’s military and intelligence. Isn’t it amazing how Pakistani tip-offs like that to jihadis have been happening for years and years, with little luck in smoking out the treacherous intel officers responsible, yet in the span of a month they somehow managed to find five guys who helped us kill the leaders of Al Qaeda? Their spy skills sure are impressive when they want them to be. Even more amazing: According to a Pakistani analyst, the reason Pakistan arrested the CIA informants is because they’re “annoyed” and embarrassed that we didn’t tip them off to the Bin Laden raid in advance. If only we’d been cooperative and given them some notice so that they could give Osama a heads-up, maybe they wouldn’t be in such a grumpy mood now. Perfect.

Two lingering questions as we move forward into the “separated, hurt, but not yet divorced” phase of our monstrously dysfunctional relationship. One: How does this Times story from a few weeks ago square with Rogers’s accusation? Intel from Bin Laden’s computer suggests that he considered reaching out to Pakistan’s government for protection, but there’s no evidence (or none we know about) that he actually did so. That’s hugely damning, obviously, insofar as OBL himself apparently thought they might be willing to deal, but if he was already being sheltered by Pakistani agents then documents like that shouldn’t exist. Two: What does our deteriorating situation with Pakistan mean for GOP support for the Afghan war? Romney’s already in hot water, inexplicably, for tepidly suggesting that the troops should come home as soon as possible, but tea-party stars like Mike Lee and Rand Paul and RINO heroes like Jon Huntsman are quietly making withdrawal a more respectable position on the right. In theory, since Pakistan will inherit control of Afghanistan once we’re gone, the more dubiously they behave, the more compelling the logic is of keeping U.S. troops in place. I don’t think it’ll work out that way in practice, though. The more dubiously Pakistan behaves and the more corrupt Karzai’s regime is, the more I think American voters will feel inclined to throw up their hands, curse the whole region as hopeless, and support pulling out. Which, in fact, may be one small reason among many that Pakistan is behaving as dubiously as it is.