Hindu Vivek Kendra
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US tough talk points to deteriorating CIA-ISI ties

US tough talk points to deteriorating CIA-ISI ties

Author: Mark Mazzetti & Eric Schmitt
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 31, 2008

Introduction: Washington Concerned That ISI May Become More Powerful Than When Musharraf Called The Shots

On a secret trip to Pakistan this month, a senior CIA official, Stephen R Kappes, presented new evidence of an unholy nexus between the ISI and militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani network and other militants operating in the tribal areas along the Afghan border are said by American intelligence officials to be responsible for increasingly deadly and complex attacks inside Afghanistan, and to have helped Al Qaida establish a safe haven in the tribal areas.

Lt Gen Martin E Dempsey, acting commander of the American forces in southwest Asia, made an unannounced visit to the tribal areas on Monday, a further reflection of American concern.

The ISI has for decades maintained contacts with various militant groups in the tribal areas and elsewhere, both for gathering intelligence and as proxies to exert influence on India and Afghanistan.

It is unclear whether the CIA officials have concluded that contacts between the ISI and militant groups are blessed at the highest levels of Pakistan's spy service and military, or are carried out by rogue elements of Pakistan's security apparatus.

With Pakistan's new civilian government struggling to assert control over the country's spy service, there are concerns in Washington that the ISI may become even more powerful than when President Pervez Musharraf controlled the military and the government. Last weekend, Pakistani military and intelligence officials thwarted an attempt by the government in Islamabad to put the ISI more directly under civilian control.

Kappes made his secret visit to Pakistan on July 12, joining Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, for meetings with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders.

"It was a very pointed message saying, 'look, we know there's a connection, not just with Haqqani but also with other bad guys and ISI, and we think you could do more and we want you to do more about it','' one senior American official said of the message to Pakistan. The official was briefed on the meetings; like others who agreed to talk about it, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic delicacy of Kappes's message.

The meetings took place days after a suicide bomber attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing dozens. Afghanistan's government has publicly accused the ISI of having a hand in the attack, an assertion American officials have not corroborated.

The decision to have Kappes deliver the message about the spy service was an unusual one, and could be a sign that the relation between the CIA and the ISI, which has long been marked by mutual suspicion as well as mutual dependence, may be deteriorating.

The trip is reminiscent of a secret visit the top two American intelligence officials made to Pakistan in January. Those officials, Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence and Michael V Hayden, the CIA director, sought to press Musharraf to allow the CIA greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories.

It was the ISI, backed by millions of covert dollars from the CIA, that ran arms to guerrillas fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It is now American troops who are dying in Afghanistan, and intelligence officials believe those long-standing ties between Pakistani spies and militants may be part of an effort to destabilize Afghanistan.

Spokesmen for the White House and the CIA declined to comment about the visit by Kappes or about the agency's assessment. A spokesman for Admiral Mullen, Capt John Kirby, declined to comment on the meetings, saying the chairman desires to keep these meetings private and therefore it would be inappropriate to discuss any details.

Admiral Mullen and Kappes met in Islamabad with top Pakistani officials, including Gilani, Musharraf, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, army chief of staff and former ISI director, and Lt Gen Nadeem Taj, current ISI director.

One American counterterrorism official said there was no evidence of the Pakistan government's direct support of Al Qaida. He said, however, there were genuine and longstanding concerns about Pakistan's ties to the Haqqani network, which of course has links to Al Qaida.

American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months sounded an increasingly shrill alarm about the threat posed by Haqqani's network. Earlier this year, American military officials pressed the American ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W Patterson, to get Pakistani troops to strike Haqqani network targets in the tribal areas. Gen Dan K Mc-Neill, senior Nato commander in Afghanistan until last month, frequently discussed the ISI's contacts with militant groups with Gen Kayani.

During his visit to the tribal areas on Monday, Gen Dempsey met with top Pakistani commanders in Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan, where Pakistan's 11th Army Corps and Frontier Corps paramilitary force have a headquarters, to discuss the security situation in the region, Pakistani officials said. North Waziristan is a hub of Al Qaida and other foreign fighters, and the base of operations for the Haqqani network.

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