Quite a few people whose intelligence I respect greatly — including Ace of Spades and Wretchard — are talking about a theory that makes so much sense, it scares me. Even though it’s purely theory and speculation, it hangs together all too well.
For years, we’ve all had our suspicions that the Pakistani intelligence service — the ISI — is at the very least infiltrated by terrorists, and may in fact might be cooperating with them. India insists, with considerable justification, that the ISI was linked to some of the more horrific terrorist attacks they’ve suffered, and far too many times intelligence we’ve shared with the ISI has ended up in the hands of those who would most benefit from it.
But Ace, Wretchard, and others are considering an even more troubling possibility: could Al Qaeda, as we know it, actually be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ISI?
Ace, as is his wont, goes for hyperbole and suggests that Al Qaeda from the outset was a subsidiary of the ISI. Wretchard, as is his wont, is a bit more reserved and suggests that some aspects of Al Qaeda and other groups are fronts for ISI.
In business terms, the possibilities are plenty. Is Al Qaeda a subsidiary, an acquisition, a merger, or a DBA?
To me, the origins of this theoretical ISI/Al Qaeda unification are not that important. What is more important is that we have the theory that the intelligence agency of a sovereign nation is also one of the leading terrorist organizations in the world. What is more important is that no one is quite certain whether the ISI is loyal to the Pakistani government, or a separate, rogue power that is largely independent of the government.
And what is most important is that Pakistan is also a nuclear power.
Worst case scenario: a nuclear power is also literally a terrorist state, using its intelligence agency to wage terror attacks around the world, focused mainly but not exclusively on the United States, as well as our interests and allies.
The discovery that Osama Bin Laden’s hideout was in a suburb of Pakistan’s capitol, in a neighborhood filled with military retirees, across the street from a police station, and half a mile from Pakistan’s West Point strains credibility beyond the breaking point. It is simply not plausible that the Pakistanis had no idea Bin Laden was there, and had been there for years. And that raises a lot of questions that many people simply didn’t want to even consider for so long.