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Why FBI agents come to Pakistan

The recent arrest and release of FBI agent Joel Cox Eugene in Karachi is a hot topic of discussion on Pakistani media channels and amongst the members of public.The alleged presence of thousands of American security contractors in Pakistan is a key focal point of the paranoia. Fears that private contractors were pouring into Pakistan has added to the growing sense that a larger American footprint has potentially sinister aspects. U.S. plans to significantly expand its embassy compound in Islamabad only fuelled theories among Pakistanis convinced that Americans are seeking to dominate their country.

In the past, such incidents instigated a series of declamation contests on media channels where ‘intellectuals’  described Pakistan as  “a U.S. colony;” senior legal and political figures  complained  that F.B.I. operations in Pakistan are “clear violations of the Pakistani constitution; Mulahs declared “jihad against America that has stationed its forces in Pakistan to do away with its  sovereignty;” and someone from a religious party even demanded that ‘all Americans living in Pakistan should be fingerprinted and tested for AIDS’.

There is a growing perception in Pakistan that the United States maintains a double-standard of friendly relations with the Islamabad government and “adversarial” relations with the Pakistani people.Anti-American sentiments and xenophobic conspiracy theories remain rife among Pakistanis. But rather to assess and promote these conspiracy theories it is important to understand FBI and its very entities and their role in Pakistan.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a lawenforcement organization of U.S. Department of Justice responsible for gathering and reporting intelligence and compilingevidence in cases involving U.S. federal jurisdiction. It has broad jurisdiction in US federallaw enforcement and in national security, and is a statutory member of the U.S.Intelligence Community. From its official inception in 1908, the FBI’s mission,jurisdiction, and resources have grown substantially in parallel with the real orperceived threats to American society, culture, political institutions, and overallsecurity.

The FBI Director is not a member of the President’s Cabinet, although he reports to the U.S. Attorney General. The FBI’s jurisdiction and responsibilities are guided by a broad range of statutes and regulations that have developed since its inception. Although the U.S. Congress have discussed the development of a legislative charter for the FBI, no such single authoritative document outlining FBI jurisdiction and responsibilities exists.

FBI expanded its international influence by developing important relationships with overseas law enforcement and security services.Over the past few years, the United States and the FBI has increased its emphasis on training and equipping foreign police as a means of supporting a wide range of U.S. foreign-policy goals, including countering terrorists overseas and stopping the flow of narcotics to the United States. Funding for these activities has increased significantly.These funds supported police assistance in three regions—South and Central Asia, the WesternHemisphere, and the Near East. Five countries and one area in the threeRegion, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, and the Palestinian Territories received more than $100 million each in police assistance in fiscal year 2009-10. In South and Central Asia, Afghanistan received an estimated $1.6 billion in police assistance from U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) while Pakistan received an estimated $162 million.

Both FBI and DOD have provided counter-narcotics and other training and equipment to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. They have also provided training to law-enforcement units including the Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, and the Antinarcotics Force for activities such as helping Pakistan secure its border with Afghanistan against terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and other criminal elements. The FBI has also conducted various trainings in Islamabad to teach Pakistani police how to investigate terrorist crime scenes.

One of the major reason for U.S agencies presence in Pakistan is long-standing American worries that American citizens were being recruited and employed in terrorism by Pakistan-based elements.In May 2010, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, Faisal Shahzad, was arrested on charges related to the attempted detonation of a large, but crudely-constructed car bomb in New York City on 1st of May. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing, calling it an act of vengeance for the killing of two Iraqi Al Qaeda leaders in April. Shahzad himself reportedly confessed to having received bomb-making training in “Waziristan,” although later reports indicate the training took place in the nearby Mahmond tribal agency.Eight days after Shahzad’s arrest, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said investigators had “developed evidence that shows the Pakistani Taliban were behind the attack.”Pakistani authorities made numerous arrests and detentions in connection with the Times Square case. These include an unnamed man believed connected with the TTP who claims to have aidedShahzad in traveling to the FATA; the owner of an Islamabad catering company that organisedevents for American diplomats; an Islamabad computer business owner suspected of providingShahzad with up to $15,000 to finance the attack.

In December 2009, U.S. federal prosecutors charged David Headley, a Chicagoan convert to Islam, with traveling to Mumbai five times from 2006 to 2008 as scout for the late 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack; he subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges. Pakistan-born Chicagoan, TahawwurRana, and AbdurRehman, are also major suspects in the case.Just days after Headley was charged, Pakistani authorities arrested five young American men reported missing from their homes in northern Virginia. The men’s families had contacted the FBI, fearing they were intent on joining jihadi groups inside Pakistan. These men were believed to have had extensive coded email contacts with a Taliban recruiter and with the chief ofan Al Qaeda-linked Pakistani terrorist group, the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). A Pakistani judge barred their deportation back to the United States, and the police chief in Sargodha, the city of their arrest, stated that the Taliban intended to use the men to carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Other Americans have received terrorist training in Pakistan, including Bryant Neal Vinas, who was in the region in 2008 and later confessed to plotting a bomb attack against the Long Island Railroad in New York. After traveling to Lahore, Mahmond agency, North Waziristan, and Peshawar, Vinas reportedly became a full-fledged member of Al Qaeda. In 2009, he pleadedguilty to all charges against him, including receiving military-type training from a Pakistani terrorist organization.

It is important to realise that such terrorist plotsinside the United States that are traced back to Pakistani sources are apt to lead to presence of FBI agents and more direct U.S. intervention in Pakistan .We must not forget that the September 11, 2001 attacks, moreover, are widely viewed as a systemic intelligence failure of the U.S. Intelligence Community, of which the FBI is one component.

In this era of globalisation of crime and terrorism in recent years, as well as congressional expansion of the FBI’s extraterritorial authority, has resulted in a significant growth in the FBI’s overseas operations especially in Pakistan. The FBI has long had counterterrorism as a top tier priority, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a catalyst for developing a definitive list of ranked priorities. On May 29, 2002, counterterrorism became the FBI’s sole number one priority and Pakistan indeed is a victim of terrorism.

One of the major program operated by the FBI in Pakistan since 1996 is Legal Attachés program. Special FBI agents assigned to these offices work with their counterparts in Pakistan to obtain information for the FBI on crimes and criminals that could harm U.S. citizens or interests.The primary mission of Legal Attachés is to facilitate and support FBI investigative interests in the overseas arena that pertain to threats against the United States, its persons or interests. The Legal Attachés establish, maintain, and enhance liaison with Pakistani law enforcement agencies in order to accomplish this mission. By working cooperatively with police, the Legal Attaché offices seek to buildnetworks that prevent crime or, alternatively, that ensure access to the information the FBI needs to locate and extradite international criminals and terrorists and obtain evidence for their prosecution. It is important to note that Legal Attaché staff may become directly involved in specific investigations, but they have no law enforcement authority in foreign countries. Thus, investigations are usually conducted jointly with foreign law enforcement agencies in accordance with local laws and procedures established by the host country.

FBI precise activities are very unclear in Pakistan therefore some Members of U.S.Congress have already called for increased oversight and explored proposals to reform or, perhaps, dismantle elements of the FBI.Despite large amounts of U.S. aid, Pakistan’s population remains deeply suspicious of the United States and U.S. policy goals in Pakistan. Pakistanis object to many U.S. policies; their objections cannot be overcome by foreign aid alone.

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