The hardest job in Washington just got harder. Pakistan's pernicious army leadership seems to be demanding the firing of Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., for -- well, this gets complicated. Here is The Cable on the latest Haqqani controversy:
Haqqani, who has long been a key link between the civilian government in Pakistan and the Obama administration, has also been battling for years with the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's chief spy agency -- two organizations whose influence in Washington he has fought to weaken. That battle came to the fore of Pakistani politics this month due to the growing scandal known in Pakistan as "memo-gate," which relates to a secret backchannel memo that was allegedly conveyed from Zardari to Mullen, through Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
Ijaz alleged in an Oct. 10 op-ed in the Financial Times that on May 10, in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad, Zardari had offered to replace Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence leadership and cut ties with militant groups. Ijaz said he was directed to craft the memo by a senior Pakistani official close to Zardari. Ijaz has implied -- and the Pakistani press has speculated -- that this official was Haqqani.
In other words, President Zardari, the Being There-style president of Pakistan, who is subservient to the army leadership on everything that matters, was looking for ways to enlist American help to keep the military and its powerful intelligence service, the ISI, from launching a total takeover of Pakistan, and was turning to Adm. Mullen, the now-former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Pakistan's main interlocutor in the American government, and used Husain Haqqani, a longtime critic of army interference in Pakistani civilian affairs, as, among other things, an intermediary.
The Pakistani army and the ISI have for years scapegoated Haqqani, even though he is their best weapon in Washington -- as I detailed in this Bloomberg View column, Haqqani is viewed in Washington as one of the only credible Pakistani officials left, and, in his official capacity, he has even argued the army's case in various matters to American officials. It would be ridiculous for the army to persecute Haqqani, which of course is what they will do, becasue we are talking about an army and an intelligence service that engages in, among other nefarious activities, the murder of journalists, as Marc Ambinder and I detail here in our Atlantic cover story, "The Ally From Hell."
Several people in Washington have asked over the past several months why Haqqani simply doesn't quit and return to the lush and quiet life of American academia (could you name an American university that wouldn't want him on its faculty?) The answer is that he is patriot, even though he is a patriot without honor in his country.