Islamist elements in spy agency force hand of Government

The New York Times report that Pakistan’s ISI spy agency is arresting those who helped the US on the Bin Laden raid has been confirmed this morning by Pakistani officials speaking off-the-record to Associate Press. And The Slog has learned that US officials knew of ISI’s intentions before they became reality.

Whether the Americans found out via surveillance means, or were told formally, or had secretly agreed to this outcome before the raid remains unclear. But a clear message is being sent out by the Pakistani authorities here: help the Americans, and there will be nowhere to hide.

The usual balm is being put out by senior US agents. “We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise,” Marie Harf, a CIA spokeswoman, told the NYT. “Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It’s a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs.”

And on the Pakistani side, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview with the London Times that the CIA and the Pakistani spy agency “are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage.”

One would imagine that the five US collaborators arrested so far would like someone to get into the details sooner rather than later, given that they are almost certainly having testicle electrode therapy as we speak.

A US source told The Slog late last night BST, “We knew it was going to happen. I can’t say more than that”.

Among those arrested is the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe Osama bin Laden’s compound. I have to observe that there isn’t enough balm on the planet to stem the anger some people will be feeling towards Pakistan this morning. They are not an ally when it comes to anti-terrorism: perhaps they would like to be, but the whole ISI security set-up is penetrated – and in some areas run – by Islamist fanatics.

Some will say that the time may be ripe for, at the very least, sanctions. I doubt if that would make any difference; but I would certainly now cut off all aid. It’s time some of the fellow-travellers began to feel a little pain.