Well, what else did we expect the Pakistanis to say?  We’re so incompetent that we can’t even detect an invasionOh, wait

A senior official in Pakistan’s civilian government told ABC News, “Elements of Pakistan intelligence — probably rogue or retired — were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda,” the strongest public statement yet from the Pakistani government after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

This is based on the government’s judgment that the number of years bin Laden spent in Abbottabad — and it now appears in a village outside the city of Haripur — would have been impossible without help, possibly from someone in the middle tier of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, who grew up fighting alongside the mujahidin against the Soviets, said the official.

According to the official, the military and ISI have been weeding some of them out but many remain.

Probably rogue elements and retirees?  There’s a confidence builder, eh?

The worst part of this statement is that it’s probably true.  I was making the same point to some Americans while traveling in Rome last week.  The ISI has long had a relationship with the Taliban — in fact, they more or less sponsored the Taliban for years, only ending the relationship after 9/11, or more accurately, officially ending the relationship.  The ISI still saw the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies as a useful force for aggressive Pakistani policy in Afghanistan and in the disputed Kashmir region, and even with the official kibosh on terror links, some elements in the ISI were not about to eschew that kind of power.  The civilian government tried purging those elements over the last few years, with not too much obvious success.

The problem for the civilian government is that they exert only a moderate amount of influence over the ISI, but this may change things.  The humiliation of having the US execute a military operation completely undetected just yards away from their version of West Point, as well as the realization that the world’s most hunted terrorist has been hanging out in the suburbs of their capital for years, may give the civilian government an opening to better control of both the ISI and the military.  The civilian government has until now operated more or less at the pleasure of the military and ISI, either of which could have conducted a coup at any time and seized power as has happened in the past.

After this, their prestige is near zero.  That may turn out to be the best thing that has happened to Pakistan in a long time. (via QandO)