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Context of '1979: Israel Considers Strike on Pakistani Nuclear Facility, but Backs Down after US Objections'

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Israel considers attacking a key part of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The idea is sparked when the Indian intelligence service Research and Analysis Wing intercepts a US cable saying that Pakistan will be able to explode a bomb within two or three years (see 1979). The Israelis knew that Pakistan was working on a nuclear weapons project, but thought it was not close to making such progress. Shocked by the Pakistani advances, they begin to plan a pre-emptive strike against one of the Pakistani facilities, the laboratory of scientist A. Q. Khan in Kahuta. However, the US learns of the plan and pressures the Israelis to put it on ice, which they do. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86]

Entity Tags: Research and Analysis Wing (Indian external intelligence agency)

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Rabinder Singh, a senior officer in India’s Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW) defects to the US while under investigation for illegally passing classified documents to the CIA. It is suspected that high level colleagues in the RAW and CIA helped him to escape. [Times of India, 6/9/2004] The Indian government believes that the defection is only the tip of the iceberg of infiltration of its intelligence agencies by the CIA and the Mossad. [Jane's International Security News, 7/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Research and Intelligence Wing, Rabinder Singh, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: 2008 Mumbai Attacks

The New York Times reports that there is fresh evidence the Pakistani government supports many Islamist militant groups who are fighting US forces. Pakistani support for militants has mainly run through the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
US Pressure Not Effective - Shortly after Asif Ali Zardari became president of Pakistan in September 2008 (see September 9, 2008), he faced accusations by the US that the ISI helped the militants bomb the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan (see July 7, 2008 and July 28, 2008). Zardari promised that the ISI would be “handled” and anyone working with militants would be fired. Some top ISI officials were replaced, including ISI Director Nadeem Taj (see September 30, 2008). However, many US and even Pakistani officials have since complained to the Times that there has been little effect seen. The Times reports that “new details reveal that the spy agency is aiding a broader array of militant networks with more diverse types of support than was previously known—even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI’s playing a ‘double game’ had ended.”
The Mysterious S Wing - US officials say that it is unlikely that the highest ranking Pakistani officials are managing relationships with militants. Instead, most of the contacts are done by the S Wing of the ISI. Very little is publicly known about the S Wing. [New York Times, 3/26/2009] However, a later Times article will note, “Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s ‘S Wing’—which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India—broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.” [New York Times, 7/26/2010] The groups S Wing is believed to support include:
bullet The Taliban. Taliban leaders are believed to be given safe haven in the Pakistani town of Quetta.
bullet The Haqqani network. This is a semi-autonomous branch of the Taliban, based in Pakistan’s tribal region. Its leader is Jalaluddin Haqqani, who has been an ISI asset since the 1980s.
bullet The Gulbuddin Hekmatyar network. Like the Haqqani network, Hekmatyar’s network is based in Pakistan but attacks US forces in Afghanistan in alliance with Taliban forces.
bullet Lashkar-e-Taiba. This Pakistani militant group is not very active in Afghanistan, but it has been linked to a number of attacks, including the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.
The ISI’s S Wing gives these groups funding, training, protection, and intelligence. The groups are tipped off to planned US drone strikes and other attacks. S Wing operatives even search radical madrassas (boarding schools) in Pakistan to find new recruits for the groups. Most shockingly, ISI officials regularly sit in on meetings of Taliban leaders and other militant leaders and help decide strategy. This practice has become so widely known that in recent months, the British government has repeatedly asked the ISI to use its influence with the Taliban to scale back attacks in Afghanistan before the August presidential elections there.
Opposition to Tehrik-i-Taliban - Not all militants are supported, however. For instance, the Pakistani government generally opposes the Tehrik-i-Taliban (also known as the Pakistani Taliban), even though it is linked to the Taliban and other groups Pakistan does support, because this group has the goal of overthrowing Pakistan’s government. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently told US senators, “There are some [groups the Pakistani government] believe have to be hit and that we should cooperate on hitting, and there are others they think don’t constitute as much of a threat to them and that they think are best left alone.”
Pakistan's Reasoning - Publicly, Pakistan denies all support for militant groups. But privately, unnamed Pakistani officials tell the Times that “the contacts were less threatening than the American officials depicted and were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India, Pakistan’s archenemy.” One official says that Pakistan needs groups like the Taliban as “proxy forces to preserve our interests.” [New York Times, 3/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Lashkar-e-Toiba, Taliban, Nadeem Taj, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, S Wing, Dennis C. Blair, Asif Ali Zardari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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