Not everyone found the reporting of the late Pakistani investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad one hundred percent credible. But that may have just been a function of how incredulous they were at the extent to which he was able to insinuate himself with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
One of his most impressive contacts was long-time militant Ilyas Kashmiri, who fought in the Kashmir until President Musharraf wound down fighting there. Kashmiri then moved to Pakistan’s tribal areas and turned on the state, once trying to assassinate Musharraf and later named as a mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In a thought-provoking — to put it mildly — article on Shahzad’s murder for the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins writes: “Muhammad Faizan, Shahzad’s colleague, said, ‘The militants used to call him, not the other way around.”
Some background by Filkins:
Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. officer, said, “After the Abbottabad raid, the Pakistanis were under enormous pressure to show that they were serious about Al Qaeda.”
Four days after Shahzad’s body was found,
… a C.I.A. officer, operating a pilotless drone, fired a missile at a group of men who had gathered in an orchard … in South Waziristan. … Among the dead was Ilyas Kashmiri. Given the brief time that passed between Shahzad’s death and Kashmiri’s, a question inevitably arose: Did the Americans find Kashmiri on their own? Or did they benefit from information obtained by the I.S.I. during its detention of Shahzad?
… If the C.I.A. killed Kashmiri using information extracted from Shahzad, it would not be the first time that the agency had made use of a brutal interrogation. … The evidence is fragmentary, but it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Pakistani intelligence agents gave the C.I.A. at least some of the information that pinpointed Kashmiri. Likewise, it seems possible that at least some of that information may have come from Shahzad, either during his lethal interrogation or from data taken from his cell phone.
If the I.S.I. supplied the C.I.A. with the whereabouts of Kashmiri, it probably didn’t reveal to the C.I.A. where it obtained that information. Nevertheless, the C.I.A. should have been aware, as the I.S.I. was, that Shahzad was the go-to guy on Kashmiri. After all, as Filkins also reports, British intelligence officers asked Shahzad to help them contact Taliban leaders (he declined).
If this scenario is true, writes Filkins
… Shahzad’s death would be not just a terrible example of Pakistani state brutality; it would be a terrible example of the collateral damage sustained in America’s war on terror.
Shahzad’s reporting was one of the best and most dependable conduits to al Qaeda and the Taliban available to the United States. If the C.I.A. accepted the fruits of their interrogation of Shahzad from the I.S.I. for the sake of killing just one terrorist leader, thus did it signal that it condoned the I.S.I. shutting down the Shahzad pipeline for good. Worse, the C.I.A. is encouraging the I.S.I.’s use of Pakistani journalists as disposable human GPS units.