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Military Commanders Testify on Impact of Bradley Manning’s Disclosures on US-Pakistan Relations Behind Closed Doors

Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata. File photo from the FOAO.

A high-ranking United States military commander, who had overseen US special operations forces in Pakistan, took the stand as a government witness in the sentencing phase of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial. He was called to testify on how the publication of US State Embassy cables affected US-Pakistan relations, but testimony specifically detailing alleged impact was classified and was given entirely behind closed doors.

Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, who served as a deputy commander of the Office of Defense Representative to Pakistan (ODRP), a defense attaché for the US Embassy in Islamabad from July 2009 to September 2011. He testified briefly about the “large and robust program” of “security assistance” provided to the Pakistan military including the Air Force and Navy. The “security assistance” was deployed to support “counterinsurgency efforts” against violent extremists including alleged members of the Taliban.

A “growing population of US special operations personnel” were brought to Pakistan to provide “direct support” in the Northwest Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border of Afghanistan. The Pakistan military had requested this increased presence of US special operations forces, according to Nagata.

Military prosecutor, Cpt. Joe Morrow, had Nagata describe why the relationship with Pakistan was “important” to US national security and Nagata told the court the Pakistan military was combatting the “same violent extremist” enemy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas that NATO and US forces are combatting in Afghanistan. The border is “porous” and “this adversary has the ability to flow across the border” with a “great deal of impunity.” Therefore, anything the US can do to support the Pakistan military’s effectivness is important.

Nagata also stated Pakistan is a “nuclear armed state” under “significant threat from violent extremist organizations.” The United States has an interest in securing Pakistan to prevent a connection from being made between terrorist and extremist organizations and the nuclear arsenal. There also is a “long history of armed confrontation between Pakistan and India” and anything that destabilizes the relationship can affect the “US national interest.”

He mentioned how military-to-military relations had benefited from the humanitarian relief effort in the summer and in the fall of 2010 when there was a massive flood. At that point, the government called for the court to go into a closed session.

The defense had no questions for Nagata to ask in open court so there were no hints as to whether they were going to object to any of Nagata’s testimony.

What the press and public know from viewing is that the testimony was likely to address how the releases impacted the ability to conduct “counterinsurgency” operations, protect Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal from being compromised by terrorist groups or how they complicated Pakistan-India relations, which according to Nagata, if destabilized, can impact US national security.

Jeremy Scahill, journalist for The Nation, referred Firedoglake to tweets he had sent out in reaction to testimony from Nagata. He said, “After I reported” on Joint Special Operations Command operations in Pakistan, “Nagata met privately with Pakistani military leadership to assure them my report was false.” He “submitted a classified report” to a congressional intelligence committee on his reporting (as well as Seymour Hersh’s reporting) on Pakistan “saying we had invented stories.”

“The Wikileaks cables later validated many aspects of my reporting on JSOC/Pakistan, which Nagata claimed were false,” Scahill stated. “The cables showed that even the US ambassador was deeply concerned about JSOC’s activities in Pakistan,” activities which Nagata had denied. [cont’d.]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."