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The US, Pakistan, and the ISI

For some time now, the United States led international force in Afghanistan has been the target of a sustained insurrection by the Taleban, no doubt aided by the Al-Qaeda network (right now, it is hard to separate the 2; although the long term aims of the 2 are different). Now, the Taleban was supposedly a student’s movement, but in reality it was a push by the ISI intelligence agency of Pakistan (supported by Benazir Bhutto’s Government) to get back control of the affairs of Afghanistan, or atleast get influence on the Government over there. After the US led forces overthrew the Taleban in late 2001, it was expected that the ISI will stop supporting them. However, it has been alleged by Karzai’s Government in Afghanistan for some time now that the Taleban has been getting support from Pakistan, not only in the lawless regions of the border areas, but also direct Government support including from the intelligence agency. The same has been alleged by NATO commanders in the region.
And then there was this bomb blast outside the Indian embassy in Kabul. Now, because of the long-standing rivalry between India and Pakistan, Pakistan cannot stand to see the current level of Indian presence and influence in Afghanistan, a region that Pakistan has always regarded as its area of influence. After the bomb blast, Pakistan as usual denied any role. However, this time, the CIA has actually supported the stand of the Indians that the ISI did have a role to play and actually confronted the Government of Pakistan and its military with its finding:

A top Central Intelligence Agency official traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials. The C.I.A. emissary presented evidence showing that members of the spy service had deepened their ties with some militant groups that were responsible for a surge of violence in Afghanistan, possibly including the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the officials said.
The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants. That ISI officers have maintained important ties to anti-American militants has been the subject of previous reports in The New York Times. But the C.I.A. and the Bush administration have generally sought to avoid criticism of Pakistan, which they regard as a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism.

For this news to become public could also mean that the Bush Administration is trying to apply public pressure on Pakistan; private pressure does not seem to have worked too much. And the US is now losing more soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq, greatly increasing the chance that the next battle-ground for public opinion in the US would be the war in Afghanistan, and how there’s been so little progress despite the US being in control of the country.
For Pakistan, this was a public relations whammy that the country could have done without. Along with the effect of being told that elements of their administration were supporting terrorism, there was the disturbing news that the civilian Government in Pakistan had failed to bring the ISI under their control. The civilian Government passed an order putting the ISI under the control of the elected Government, but within a few hours, had to retract the order. No doubt it had been told by the military to stay within its limits (putting Pakistan as one of the few countries where the chief intelligence agency is not under the control of the political class).

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