It was almost like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan — where every male is a suspected terrorist — had been plopped down just outside Washington, D.C. That’s because of what happened to nine senior Pakistani military officers Sunday. They felt mistreated at Washington’s Dulles airport, leading their government to cancel their official, government-approved visit to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Pakistan is, of course, one of our key anti-terror allies, and we can’t even get them into the country to discuss it. You suspect CIA Predators are peering at terror leaders hiding somewhere in Pakistan — perhaps even Osama bin Laden himself — trying to suppress their smirks.
“We were going to discuss operational coordination,” moaned one U.S. officer. After a couple of flights stretching over 22 hours, one of the Pakistani officers on the final leg from Washington to Tampa said “he hoped this was his last flight,” according to a Pakistani official. “He may have been being flirtatious,” the Pakistani official added, but — if so — he apparently miscalculated. The remark got the attention of someone on the plane, many of whom had already noted the sprinkling of Muslim-looking men around the cabin. A flight attendant summoned security. Once security decided to take the officer in for questioning, his eight colleagues decided to go along as well. Each was put into a separate room for questioning at the airport.
According to Pakistani officials, airport security officers wouldn’t let the nine telephone their liaison at Central Command, or their one-star general at the Pakistani Embassy, to vouch for their bonafides. They ignored their Pakistani passports showing they were government officials. The interrogators kept asking the officer who talked of his “last flight” what “you meant by that last sentence” uttered on the plane, which he said he couldn’t recall. It took more than two hours to resolve the matter. The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a call seeking comment. Pakistani officials, upset at how their invitees to the U.S.-Pakistan Military Consultative Committee had been handled, ordered their delegation back home. “This has to be changed,” says Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. “The humiliation comes long before the investigation.”