ISI in the eye of storm again!

ISI in the eye of storm again!
Rauf Klasra: The News, August 19, 2007

LONDON: Pakistani intelligence agency ISI is once again in the eye of a storm here, after it has been revealed in the newly-released US official documents that Islamabad gave substantial military support to the Taliban in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks, sending arms and soldiers to fight alongside the militant Afghan movement.

According to these newly-released US official documents that might further put pressure on Pakistan to share the blame for 9/11 attacks in the US, Islamabad is now said to have acknowledged diplomatic economic links with the Taliban but has denied direct military support.

The US intelligence and State Department documents, released under the country’s Freedom of Information Act, show that Washington believed otherwise.

A report in the UK media says: “Suspicion has lingered that some elements of Pakistani intelligence are still protecting the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies in the autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. US officials have warned they might take direct military action without Islamabad’s approval.”

Among the documents acquired by the National Security Archives, an independent group pressing for government transparency, is a confidential memo sent in November 1996, from Islamabad to the Defence Intelligence Agency in Washington, describing how Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps was operating across the border.

The Frontier Corps are recruited from the Pashtun population in the tribal areas, but commanded by officers from the regular Pakistan Army.

“For Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan,” a State Department briefing paper, dated January 1997, said, adding: “Many Pakistanis claim they detest the Taliban brand of Islam, noting that it might infect Pakistan, but this apparently is a problem for another day.”

Pervez Musharraf is under intense pressure from the spread of Taliban extremist influence in his own country, and admitted that the movement had support from his side of the border.

“The documents illustrate that throughout the 1990s, the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] considered Islamic extremists to be foreign policy assets,” Barbara Elias, a National Security Archive researcher, said. “But they succeeded ultimately in creating a Pakistani Taliban. Those years of fuelling insurgents created something that now directly threatens Islamabad.”

The report said, privately, Pakistani officials concede that the ISI was instrumental in turning the Taliban into an organized force before 2001, but claim that the committed Islamists in the ISI ranks have been purged.

Those claims are being viewed increasingly critically in Washington, due to Islamabad’s failure to uproot Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in tribal regions, like Waziristan. Bush administration hawks and the Democratic presidential contender, Barack Obama, have called for direct US military action in the region, the report says.

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