Editor’s Note: Bruce Riedel spent nearly 30 years as a CIA officer focusing on terrorism. He served as senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues and he chaired President Obama’s first interagency review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, American and the Future of Global Jihad.
By Bruce Riedel – Special to CNN
Only Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI) knows for sure what it is trying to gain from the arrests of the suspected CIA informants who helped lead to Osama bin Laden. But it seems likely the ISI is trying to learn more about American intelligence operations in Pakistan than anything else. They are likely trying to find out what the U.S. is doing in Pakistan and trying to make it harder for the U.S. to carry out its operations. After all, if the ISI wanted to learn what the U.S. knows about Al Qaeda, they could come to the U.S. directly.
These arrests demonstrate that the U.S. and Pakistan have dramatically different reactions to the Abbottabad raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. America sees the raid as a success in the war against Al Qaeda. The Pakistani military - and to a large extent the Pakistani population as a whole - see it as a humiliation.
They see it as a humiliation in two ways: First, that bin Laden was hiding in the heartland of Pakistan; second, and more importantly, that the Pakistani military was unable to defend itself against a penetration of their country’s airspace by the United States.
These arrests come at a time when the Pakistani army is under unprecedented criticism at home, due to both the army’s humiliation in Abbottabad and to a series of terrorist attacks that have struck Pakistan recently.
This has placed the military under unprecedented pressure. There is even talk that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani may be in trouble with his fellow generals. The extent of this discord is hard to gauge but this is something we haven’t seen in some time.
The very different views of what happened on May 2 in Abbottabad reflect the fundamental divergence of strategic interests between Pakistan and the United States.
Pakistan is a country that continues to harbor and support various parts of the Jihadist Frankenstein that it has created over the last quarter of a century even as it fights other parts of that Frankenstein monster. The Pakistani army does not want to give up its links to terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban.
America is in a difficult position vis-a-vis Pakistan. As Bob Gates said on his last visit to Afghanistan, this is like a bad marriage. You don’t want to make it worse and you don’t want to get a divorce, so ugly events continue. The direction in U.S.-Pakistan relations is clear: The bilateral relationship is deteriorating and we are heading toward an increasingly tense period.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Bruce Riedel.