The View From Pakistan's Spies
By David Ignatius
Washington Post, September 29, 2009
ISLAMABAD -- The headquarters of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is a black-ribbed stucco building in the Aabpara neighborhood of the capital. Its operatives, described by wary Pakistanis as "the boys from Aabpara," play a powerful and mysterious role in the life of the country. Their "tentacles," as one ISI officer terms the agency's spy networks, stretch deep into neighboring Afghanistan.
The ISI agreed to open its protective curtain slightly for me last week. This unusual outreach included a long and animated conversation with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the agency's director general, as well as a detailed briefing from its counterterrorism experts. Under the ground rules, I cannot quote Pasha directly, but I can offer a sense of how his agency looks at key issues -- including the Afghanistan war and the ISI's sometimes prickly relationship with America.
At an operational level, the ISI is a close partner of the CIA. Officers of the two services work together nearly every night on joint operations against al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas, perhaps the most dangerous region in the world. Information from the ISI has helped the CIA plan its Predator drone attacks, which have killed 14of the top 20 targets over the past several years.
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