Cablegate: Usg Media Leaks Have Pakistani Military "Reviewing Contingencies"
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DE RUEHIL #0172/01 0111024
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O 111024Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4360
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 8039
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 7038
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 2635
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 8619
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 4547
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 3204
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 000172
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/10/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PINR KPAO PK
SUBJECT: USG MEDIA LEAKS HAVE PAKISTANI MILITARY "REVIEWING CONTINGENCIES"
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary. Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Tariq Majid separately called in Ambassador January 8 and 9 to express their concern about repeated media reports stating senior USG officials were considering unilateral action within Pakistan. Both officials said the recent statements harmed the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. in the war on terror and fueled anti-American and anti-GOP conspiracy theories. General Majid further stated the Pakistani military was reviewing its own contingency plans in the event that the U.S. attempts to take unilateral action within Pakistan. End Summary.
2. (C) Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan called in Ambassador January 8 to express his concern about repeated media reports that Pakistan's nuclear weapons might fall into extremist hands, including reports that the U.S. was developing contingency plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons. He also raised alleged discussions by senior USG officials about unilateral U.S. military/intelligence action within Pakistan, which had been reported in the New York Times and Washington Post. Riaz Khan said the stories were having a negative impact even among pro-western Pakistani elite. The reports are encourage anti-Americanism among the illiterate man in the street, he added. Riaz Khan said it was hard not to see these leaks as “purposeful.” He went on to say he knew governments had to develop contingencies, but they did not have to talk about them in the press. He observed that these articles unify Pakistanis - from ultra-liberal to ultra-conservative - in a way that almost nothing else could.
3. (C) Ambassador said we had a realistic picture of Pakistan's nuclear safeguards, and we knew that they were not going to fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists. She added that we always take visiting congressmen and senators to see LTG Khalid Ahmed Kidwai (Ret), Director General of Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, to get a better understanding of Pakistan's nuclear security. The USG can not control media reports, and as a practical matter, the administration cannot control ill-informed “leaks” from supposed or actual USG sources either. Ambassador agreed that ill-informed speculation in the media was not useful in promoting bilateral relations with Pakistan or in putting pressure on Pakistan to do more in the war on terror.
4. (C) General Tariq Majid, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called in the Ambassador on the same topic January 9. General Majid complained Pakistan has become a “punching bag” in the American media. He stated the Pakistani military views all the USG statements over the last year regarding possible U.S. unilateral action in Pakistan as linked. General Majid added, “It got to the point where we are looking at our own contingencies.” Ambassador replied that his statement was astonishing.
5. (C) General Majid asked if the Ambassador was familiar with stories circulating that the U.S. was working to destabilize Pakistan. He continued, “The U.S. has the right to contemplate what actions it would take in certain situations, but we have the right to defend ourselves.” He went on to say the leaks from USG officials and similar statements from U.S. presidential candidates have put President Musharraf and the Pakistani military in a difficult position regarding cooperation with the U.S.
6. (C) Ambassador assured General Majid the USG has confidence in Pakistan's nuclear safeguards and described the productive meeting that morning among Ambassador, Senator Lieberman, and General Kidwai to discuss the issue (reported septel). Ambassador agreed the recent media reports were counterproductive and assured the General of the USG's intent to strengthen our anti-terror and nuclear security cooperation. Ambassador suggested the GOP could help ease the backlash by ensuring that GOP-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) stops airing absurd conspiracy theories and drivel that feed anti-American and anti-GOP sentiments.
7. (C) PTV is airing regular targeted programming that not only criticizes U.S. policies, but also questions the motives of some of our routine diplomatic activities. Many of the current highly inflammatory anti-American conspiracy theories and allegations have come out under the names of PTV staff.
8. (C) Ambassador asked General Majid about his views on Baitullah Mehsud and expressed concern that he may become more brazen following a series of successful suicide bomb attacks apparently under his direction. General Majid agreed Mehsud “is one of the main sources of these attacks” adding, “he must be killed.” General Majid stated the Pakistani military has been contemplating this for some time, but is waiting for actionable intelligence so it can kill Mehsud with a quick strike followed by a push from the army to wipe out his then-leaderless forces.
9. (C) Comment: Alleged meetings of high-level officials in the U.S. supporting “unilateral action” have been reported in banner headlines here, displacing coverage of the Bhutto assassination and the electricity shortage. These reports have fanned anti-American sentiments among the population.