WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said on Monday that former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen knew the emissary who had brought the controversial memo to him but he did not believe it was from President Asif Ali Zardari.
The statement indirectly confirms two latest developments in the so-called memogate scandal that has shaken Pakistan: Former US National Security Adviser James Jones took the memo to the admiral and the accuser Mansoor Ijaz's claim that President Zardari may not have known about the letter.
“Mr Mullen knew who the intermediary was but the letter was not signed and he did not find the contents credible at all,” Capt. John Kirby told a briefing.
“Nothing in it indicated that it was from President Zardari.”
Capt. Kirby, who was also Mr Mullen's spokesman when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the admiral did not find the memo credible because “he received this from a third party, there was no indication that this was from President Zardari, and the contents of the letter were not at all credible.”
The Pentagon spokesman also said that the admiral did not know and had no communication with Mr Ijaz, the Pakistani-American businessman who claimed that Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, had dictated him the message from President Zardari, seeking US support for sacking senior army officials and restructuring its command and control mechanism.
Asked why Gen. Jones agreed to take such a suspicious memo to Admiral Mullen, Capt. Kirby said he could not speak for the former White House official.
“If he is speaking about it, that is his account. You should ask him why.”
On Sunday evening, a US media outlet quoted Gen. Jones as saying that he was the intermediary who took the memo to Admiral Mullen.
Later, in an email message to some Pakistani media outlets, he also said he had received the memo from Mr Ijaz in May and delivered it to Admiral Mullen in less than a week after receiving it.
This confirms Mr Ijaz's earlier claim that the emissary who took the message to Mr Mullen was so important that he could not have ignored the memo.
Initially, Capt. Kirby, speaking on behalf of Mr Mullen, had said that either the admiral did not receive the memo or even if he did, it was so unimportant that he did not remember receiving or reading it. But a week after the first statement, Capt. Kirby confirmed that Admiral Mullen recalled receiving the memo.
In an interview to an Indian TV, Mr Ijaz also said that Amb. Haqqani might not have discussed operational details with President Zardari and probably did not tell him that he was sending a memo or a letter to Admiral Mullen.
In situations like this, he said, only the end-result was confirmed to the man on the top, not operational details.
Amb. Haqqani has denied Mr Ijaz's claim that he dictated the letter to the businessman, and has dismissed the memo “as a bundle of lies”.
Gen. Jones, in his statement, said he agreed to deliver the message to Admiral Mullen because he was neither a serving US government official nor associated with the Obama administration.
“I was not in government when I forwarded the message to Admiral Mullen on May 10,” he wrote. Mr Jones said he had confirmed his role as the intermediary to The Financial Times four days ago.
Meanwhile, Amb. Haqqani, who has been staying at the President House in Islamabad, since early Sunday morning, has reduced his communication with the media and his followers.
“I am a little busy in Islamabad. Normal tweeting will resume soon,” he said in a Twitter message sent on Monday afternoon. “Not to my knowledge. I am where I am:),” he wrote when one of his followers on the Twitter asked if he was innocent, who had hatched this conspiracy against him and why.