The Grocer and Alice’s Cat

By; Brig. F.B Ali(Retd.)

It was the dawn of 2010, and the ISI had a problem: Pakistan’s spy agency was losing control over some of its Taliban proteges. The previous year the British and some Europeans, wearying of the unending war, had prevailed upon the UN representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, to get peace negotiations started between the Karzai government and the Taliban. With the assistance of the Saudis, Eide arranged some meetings with a few former Taliban leaders and also involved some Afghan officials. These didn’t bother the ISI; what was getting them worried now were reports that the Taliban’s No. 2 man, and operational commander, Mullah Baradar, was involved in these talks.

The ISI’s predicament was that they didn’t know where Baradar was. While they kept track of the Taliban political leadership, Baradar had disappeared into the large Pashtun community in Karachi’s 18 million inhabitants. The ISI had information on his satellite communication links, but didn’t have the hi-tech equipment to pinpoint his location through them. Their friends in the CIA had such equipment but, even though they claimed the US wasn’t in favour of any peace negotiations, the ISI couldn’t be sure. So, they just told the CIA they needed help to pick up some low-level Taliban operatives in Karachi.

The CIA obliged, and the ISI nabbed Baradar. A week later they told the CIA: Guess what? We’ve just discovered we got a big fish in that roundup! The CIA was pleased, Kai Eide was not. The nascent peace talks were squashed, and the Taliban leadership got the message: no talking without Pakistani permission. The message to the Karzai government and the West was: if you desire peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgents, come to us and we’ll bring them to the table.

Months passed and then, all of a sudden, everyone in Kabul started jumping onto the peace talks bandwagon, including, notably, Gen Petraeus. The trouble was they weren’t asking the Pakistanis to help; instead, they were again throwing out feelers directly to the Taliban. The ISI didn’t like this at all; since they couldn’t be sure another leader wouldn’t decide to do some freelancing, they decided to create their own freelancer. The person they settled on was Mullah Mansur, who had replaced Mullah Baradar in the Taliban hierarchy.

The call went out to ISI operatives to find a Mansur look-alike. The person selected for this role was an Afghan who was running a small grocery shop in Quetta. Since all the Taliban, conveniently, wear turbans and sport large beards, discovery of the imposture was not a big worry; they hoped suitable briefings would take care of other issues. Even though the US commander in Afghanistan was now all for peace talks, the ISI wasn’t so sure about the CIA. So, they decided to have the fake Mansur approach the British spy agency, the SIS, instead.

The SIS couldn’t believe their luck. Marginalized in Afghanistan by the huge CIA operation, they were facing budget crunch time back at home. Here was a chance to play the lead role in a critical venture, and prove to everyone the importance of their contribution. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, they didn’t do any serious checking of his bona fides. Even if they’d wanted to, they didn’t have the means; they couldn’t ask the ISI, and they didn’t want to involve the CIA. Their Taliban contact was playing hard to get, so they overcame his hesitations with a large payment upfront, with promises of more to come.

When they broke the news of their coup to the CIA and the Afghans, both warmly welcomed it but warned of the essential need to keep it hidden from the ISI. A plane landed at the US airbase in Pakistan, picked up ‘Mullah Mansur’, and flew him to Kabul. Adequately briefed, the ‘Mullah’ held his own in talks with the Americans and the Afghans. Everyone was surprised at the very moderate conditions that he put forward for a settlement  except Gen Petraeus, who was convinced that this was the result of the hard knocks he had recently been giving the Taliban.

The Taliban ‘leader’ had to be persuaded with several hundred thousand dollars to repeat his visits to Kabul. On one of them he was taken by the British to visit with President Karzai, who was generous in the promises that he made about the future. Gen Petraeus made it known to the media that his strategy was succeeding, and had brought the Taliban to the negotiating table. Already he could see the laurels of Afghanistan being added to those of his “victory” in Iraq. Taliban denials that any such talks were going on were met with knowing smiles.

The ISI had succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. It had managed to have its Quetta grocer conduct talks for months with the Afghans and the Americans as a senior Taliban emissary. It had learnt a great deal of their negotiating positions. This was sweet revenge for the Afghans and the West trying to cut them out of the peace moves. They had now effectively proved that such talks could not be held without using them as the intermediary. Having achieved what they wanted they pulled the plug on the caper; the doughty ‘Mullah Mansur’ and the humble Quetta grocer both suddenly disappeared. Word was quietly leaked as to what had really happened.

It is not known if the ISI has a mascot. Perhaps they should adopt the Cheshire Cat as one. After all, it was adept at vanishing into thin air, leaving behind only its huge grin hanging in the tree branches. 
[Full Disclosure: The writer does not have, and has never had, any connection with the ISI. (In fact, apart from le Carre’s doomed protagonists, he heartily detests spies  present company excepted, of course). This piece is a connecting of the dots of information available in the public record, while ignoring the chaff scattered by certain (rather red-faced) interested parties. As for Alice, the author finds her saga an indispensable aid in understanding an increasingly crazy world].

NOTE:This is a cross post.

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  • sturkman  On November 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I don’t know, when is USA going to learn that Taliban or Al Qaeda are not at war with her in Afghanistan, its Pakistan Military because both are its Protegea.

  • a m malik  On November 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    You talk hate and venom and have a disgusting mindset. Is CIA ll hajis? which country does not play tricks.
    For the other friends = And if it is all true then so be it. However a lot appears a conjecture. Talibans were so stupid not to have known the negotiations that had been taking for a long time? And for a huge effort only to find out the negotiating details by the ISI, appears rediculous.
    Sounds the story is mostly fake.

  • Parvez Amin  On November 13, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Fake stories sound fake and probably are. The entire hargy bargy ends the day the Americans go home. People are laughing at them and enjoying their discomfiture.

  • Sajid Manzoor Ph.D.  On November 13, 2011 at 6:10 am

    The post afghan war supermacy is in progress and ISI, CIA, MOSAD, RAW etc are playing their best role. ISI is under fire but we wish them best for their country being the direct effectee.

  • sturkman  On November 13, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Yeah all statements of Chinese Premier and USA are fake, Osama story is fake, Taliban loss of Weapons in 2001 was fake, Pak Army replenishment of Weapon to Taliban was fake, salaries of Taliban are fake, Allah has been sending them Money and Weapons from sky, ISI JehaaDi Mumbai Attacks were fake and people are laughing at them.
    Americans leave Afghanistan and Pakistan Military takes it over through Taliban and that would end your misery but what about misery of Afghans?
    How many hundreds of thousands more of them you want to kill?

  • Admiral Sirohey  On November 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

    No acceptable solution is possible without total participation of Pakistan.


    • a m malik  On November 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      Turkey yeah yeah fellow
      U know so much that perhaps even Divine is unaware of.
      For the remaining dear friends: The advice from Admiral Sirohey seems to be the only wise course of action

      • sturkman  On November 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm

        Mr. Malik,
        I never said, I was God Anointed but somehow, what I write keeps turning out to be truth with His blessing. Eat your heart out …!

    • sturkman  On November 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      Please tell this to your Military that has ruled 47 out of last 55 years directly or indirectly without any participation of Pakistanis …!

  • a m malik  On November 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Were u supposed to rule then? Why do u not tell this urself? Ur also liar to fudge with your calculations. And as a citizen of this country, for ur info, except for yahya, their rule had been lot better than pre 1958 democrats or the post ones. So do not keep spurting ur wise cliche’s time and again.

    • sturkman  On November 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      Sure, sure. Pakistan is not a country. It a Fort. Fort of Islam that has to be ruled by Military. Every year half to 3/4th of Budget of under-developed Pakistan has to keep getting fed to keep Military strong to keep conqering Pakistan again and again. Pakistan does not belong to Pakistanis. It belongs to Punjabis and Punjabi Military.
      In our Military Academies we are taught to run Pakistan, all kinds of Businesses, Diplomacy, Politics, Economists etc, not how to fight. Who else could run country better than us?
      All countries of the world ran by Military have become advanced and rich just like Pakistan. .

      • a m malik  On November 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        U are a great historian- a joker at that. If u cannot be relevant do not try to show the lack of ur info. Mil budget is only 16% at present of the national income or 2.4% of the GNP. The ruling junta has significant number of Urdu speaking Generals, but they never felt that they are any different to the rest.
        But u – the greatest of the urdu fellow who has ditched the land of his birth so says. Ofcourse ignorance has no limits.
        a Ghasi Ram is always Ghasi Ram

  • S U Turkman  On November 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    You are a Liar.
    Pak Defense Budget 2011-12 is over Rs. 495 billion without counting Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and others Military Expenses.
    Total Outlays are Rs. 2.5 trillion and it turns out to be 20% of Budget, not 16% as you wrote.

    It also does not include …
    * … Profits from Military Owned Enterprises like NLC, Income of Engineering Corps making money hands over fists in construction Projects,
    * … the money Military is stealing from Foreign Aid,
    * … the Money Military Charges to distribute Foreign and Domestic Aid every year.
    * … the money Military receives directly from USA as Charity of Military Aid.
    * … the Salaries and Benefits Military Officers and ordinary Technicians are getting from PIA and other institutions of Pakistan because they have been deputed to those Civilian Governmental Jobs.
    * … the money being spent on Wah Ordnance Factory and others like that.
    If you add all that up, Military Budget is about half of the Outlays or spending of Pak Government. Please tell me, which country in this world not at war had ever had even 19% of its resources spent on Defense in last half century?
    Could you please explain what you mean by ‘significant number of Urdu Speaking Generals’ in Pak Army?
    According to list of Generals consisting of more than 196 Generals, 97% are Punjabi to represent 44% of Punjabi Population of Pakistan and its way more than double representation on the price of 56% Non Punjabis of Pakistan. I know, a couple of my idiot Punjabi class-fellows from Lahore had reached rank of General and a Punjabi Husband of one of my first cousins, who could not even do simple Math had reached rank of Brigadier, while two of my very high IQ Urdu Speaking relatives have not.

    One of them, who had graduated in high colors from Sandhurst Military Academy (U.K.) was discriminated so much that he had gotten mad and had resigned from rank of Major. He became a self-made filthy rich Businessman in Saudi Arabia instead of licking balls of his idiotic Officers in Pak Army.
    I have more stories to tell but this post would become too long and nobody would care to read it then.

    • a m malik  On November 19, 2011 at 10:20 am

      The discussion with you is fruitless because you will always come out with old granny’s tales. You are talking of the defence budget. Damn it -all officers even from the civil side when on dep draw that additional amount. Have you counted their heads/numbers or u only speak where ur venom can strike?
      Cowards like u have run away from their mother country. If the sandhurst fellow could not make it beyond a Major then he must be an idiot or must have had some lolly pop waiting outside. If it was ethnicity then how could in the first instance he managed his selection for Sandhurst? And what colours did he get from there- black or brown? Got involved with Wrens – why do u not tell the true story ? Some of your cousins stories – what bulshit. And if he did become the fifth richest business man in Saudia ( I do not how u have rated him beyond the local princes who are business men also) proves my point of the loly pop. In either cases he did lick the balls of the army fellows till he was a major – when he started licking those of others – change in taste? Brigs are not made so because of maths – which in any case is not the requirement for the entry. It is those qualities which perhaps u lack. Common sense and the means to understand one’s point of view.
      you have caused the budget to swell at 19%, though that is a complete out, because u have failed to add up 11 bn dollars fro the expacts; but even then it is not such a figure that would make one shudder. USA screams at 12% of the GDP , Israel at 22%, India at 4.5%. We speak of GDP and then the comparison becomes easier.
      I am – as others are still waiting for the list of those Major Generals underlined who u think are punjabis and star also those poor little urdu speaking mazlooms
      Ur lies will stand exposed

  • S U Turkman  On November 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Mr. Malik,
    I am not going to answer your rhetoric backing un-Islamic Punjabi Ethnic Bigotry because most Pakistanis understand its all B.S. I am only quoting your sentences that need answers below.
    MALIK wrote: “you have caused the budget to swell at 19%, though that is a complete out, because u have failed to add up 11 bn dollars fro the expacts; but even then it is not such a figure that would make one shudder”.
    TURKMAN: Please show me those $ 11 billion Remittances from the Ex-patriots in Pak Budget …! They are not because Budget is made out of Government Revenue Income, not from what Govt. paid to families of Ex-patriots. Remittances do not arrive in shape of Dollars sir. They go in Pakistan’s Foreign Exchange Reserves account with IMF. I had no knowledge, I was discussing something with an Economic Illiterate.
    MALIK wrote: “USA screams at 12% of the GDP , Israel at 22%, India at 4.5%. We speak of GDP and then the comparison becomes easier”.
    * US Defense Budget $ 663.84 billion.
    * US GDP $ 14.7 trillion
    Ref: 14582400
    * Percentage of Defense Budget compared to GDP
    I rest my case. Proving you a liar again. I am not going to waste my time searching for similar evidence against your lies about India and Israel. Just get lost. You have no idea, lying is one of the Basic Sins in Islam.

    • a m malik  On November 20, 2011 at 3:36 am

      TURKEY There is an adage that “wise enemy is better than a foolish friend” Perhaps this got ecclipsed by the americans when granting citizenship to you. They would regret it now.
      The super duper financial wizard that you are yes the 11bn dolloars go to the individual Banks and add up to purchase imports and do not do not go in the kitty of IMF. I wonder where did u get the info on the IMF kitty??
      Not withstanding the US GDP%age that you were quick to refer to u forgot that all the defence related expenditure is not shown. Defence space programme, nuclear assets manufacture and safe keeping , defence space programmes, expenditure on items manufactured for Military sales, the int: set ups not only out but inside the country etc. Ur naivity really floors me.
      The literate illetrate that u are – u have yet to send me the marked list of the “mazloom” and Zalim Generals. And the name of ur “competent Sandhurst cousin
      For the future do not send half cocked info that you gather from way side sources and try to show ur expertise on matters beyond ur comprehension

      • S U Turkman  On November 20, 2011 at 4:08 am

        Oh yeah, yeah, Cartons of currencies of Foreign Countries remitted by Ex-patriot Pakistanis working in Middle East and elsewhere in world come through PIA Flights and delivered to State Bank of Pakistan and I am lying. All the Money that Pakistan earns from Exports also comes in Cartons. All the Charity of Aid and Loans also come in Cartons. Remittances do not go through IMF System and neither do Letters of Credit. Please tell us, what then IMF really does and why no country had wanted to import/export anything from Iran including Iran, Russia, China and Japan, when it had tried to do away with this IMF system?
        Please stop conversing with me because I am only an illiterate and I do not have any Ph. D. in World Economics from USA like you do. Please take it out on a person of your size, my Lord …!

      • a m malik  On November 20, 2011 at 7:51 am

        Pardon me, a few of my friends have congratulated me and asking me that how did I manage to shake a freak like ……….

        Pleas accept a parting kiss. My life will now be spent with some comfort

  • S U Turkman  On November 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Oh sure Mr. Malik,
    I am shaking. Your General Knowledge about Budget, International Trade and Transactions has blown me apart. Sir, I am only one of the top 350 some World Economists, who’s advice has been sought by only Russia and India so far, Both countries are monsterous Economic failure as the world can see now. I admit, I do not have as much knowledge as you do, my Lord.

    • a m malik  On November 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

      u r also expert on making a unique commode seat that u always boasted of.
      Now I understand why the recession of the 30’s in USA knocked the hell out of the country. It was because u were nor then there to bail them out. And it is ur policies that USA is following to be in debt of trillions.

      What u are not? Economist, scientist, technologist, commodologist? that is and perhaps more that u have been claiming to be. One would have believe you till the time u remained silent.

  • S U Turkman  On November 21, 2011 at 3:08 am

    I had provided you with Patent Number of my last product that you could find on any Search Engine you wanted. I provided you with all other references but still you have to make fun of me because you are my Lord and whatever you think of me is Universal Truth. What can I do?
    I remember, what Allah had called people like you and I strongly believe He was right. May Allah help cure your Brain Tumor …!

    • a m malik  On November 21, 2011 at 5:26 am

      u r a congenital liar. U never gave me the patent number of even the unique commode that u invented

      • S U Turkman  On November 21, 2011 at 5:49 am

        I can give you again US 7,614,092 B1 and since purpose of this forum was not what you are using for, I think, I should not answer any of your emails. Moderator should take a note of this and tell Mr. Malik to resolve his issues with me without involving rest of the people of this forum in it. He knows my emails address.

      • a m malik  On November 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

        Yes- the moderator gave u a free hand when you were making venomous and unfounded accusations against my country, my nation, our army and our ISI and one of our provinces – Punjab – to create bad blood between the various members of this blog and when I started to expose you -Sir, you pick up your skirt and cry mouse??
        You are lucky that Mr Aftab and one more Genrleman are not on this blog!

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