How bad is the credibility of Pakistan’s ISI these days? Even their own government doesn’t trust them. As Bill Roggio points out, their latest announcement — that Osama bin Laden is dead — even has President Ali Zardari reminding people that American intel on their own country is more reliable than what he sees from the ISI:
President Asif Ali Zardari said Monday that Pakistani intelligence believes Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead but acknowledged they had no evidence.
“The Americans tell me they don’t know, and they are much more equipped than us to trace him. And our own intelligence services obviously think that he does not exist any more, that he is dead,” Zardari told reporters.
“But there is no evidence, you cannot take that as a fact,” he said. “We are between facts and fiction.”
Osama could be dead. He could be alive. The problem with trusting the ISI’s conclusion is that they have a huge stake in convincing people of the former. They’d like nothing better than to declare Osama dead and get some of the international heat off of Pakistan — and the ISI itself, which has been thoroughly infiltrated by Islamic extremists sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
As Bill also points out, that heat has risen considerably over the last few months. Obama has raised the profile of the Af-Pak War, by increasing American troop levels in the theater and by failing to get more combat troops from our NATO partners. Pakistani intel would like nothing better than to give Europe enough excuse to push for an end to the Afghanistan mission. If Osama’s dead, they might think, it would be easier for the West to declare victory and go home.
I’m agnostic on Osama’s body temperature, but his death won’t end the danger from al-Qaeda in any case. Hopefully, NATO and Obama understand that much. So far, Obama’s done reasonably well on the Af-Pak War, but he might get cold feet if his European partners start backing away.
Update: It’s hard to top Tom Maguire’s take: “Although I don’t speak Austrian, I believe a more complete translation of their announcement is “Osama is dead already, so go away and leave us alone”.”