Pakistan's "Deep State"—And a Big U.S. Problem


Writing in The New Republic, Washington Times National Security Correspondent (and Reason contributor) Eli Lake explores Pakistan's "deep state," a national security bureaucracy "that has more power than the political leaders it ostensibly serves."

Pakistan's deep state, argues Lake, is the reason why Bin Laden

periodically recorded his amusement that U.S. drones were searching for him in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan while he was living comfortably less than a quarter of a mile from a Pakistani military academy. "Bin Laden was yukking it up about how clueless we were," [an anlayst privy to the material being taken off Bin Laden's computers] says….

All modern democratic societies have powerful national-security bureaucracies, but a deep state is a bureaucracy that has more power than the political leaders it ostensibly serves. One former senior U.S. counterterrorism official described Pakistan's problem this way: "Imagine if the CIA was supporting the drug cartels of Mexico over the wishes of the Congress and the White House," he said. "That's what we have in Pakistan." We know what it means to be at war with a sovereign nation—but how should a country fight a deep state?…

The raid [on Bin Laden's compound] was successful, but it has exposed the acute difficulty of pursuing an alliance with one part of the Pakistani government while working against another. The United States was able to prevent the deep state from thwarting its attack on bin Laden, but in doing so, it may have alienated the cooperative elements of the military. A week after the raid, a Pakistani newspaper printed the name of the CIA station chief—a leak that almost surely came from the ISI—and the army accused the United States of violating its national sovereignty. Meanwhile, the debate in Washington has mostly centered on whether or not to cut off the flow of aid money to Pakistan, which misses the point that the real problem runs much deeper.

Read the whole thing here.

And read Lake's powerful Reason story, "The 9/14 Presidency," about the expanded powers rushed into being after the September 11 attacks and still being used and abused by Barack Obama.