US warns Pakistan on Taleban link
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Agency (ISI) has been widely accused of refusing to sever its links with Islamist groups that date back to the Cold War and the US-backed fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
President Obama says: “Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.”
Imtiaz Gul, head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, told AFP that Obama has made it clear US forces are going to chase the Al-Qaeda leadership “wherever it is.”
“The US wants a result-oriented operation. Success in the war on terror is only possible if all the domestic problems which Pakistan is facing nowadays are resolved,” warned retired lieutenant general Naseer Ahmad.
The top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Friday there were “indications” that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service are lending support to Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Pakistan spies under heat in new US strategy
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has vowed to put the heat on Pakistan’s spies in its new regional strategy, with top officials openly accusing elements in powerful intelligence agency of abetting Al-Qaeda.
President Barack Obama on Friday unveiled a plan to root out extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan by boosting troops and drastically increasing civilian personnel and aid to the region.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to the region, said he would visit Pakistan again next week to follow up on the plan. Of all issues, investigating the nuclear-armed nation’s spy network “is the most important,” he said.
“The issue’s very disturbing,” Holbrooke told public television’s “Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” when asked if Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was assisting Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists.
“We cannot succeed if the two intelligence agencies are at each others’ throat or don’t trust each other and if the kind of collusion you referred to is factual,” Holbrooke said.
General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, did not dispute that ISI elements have tipped off extremists to let them escape US-led forces.
“There are some cases that are indisputable in which that appears to have taken place,” Petraeus told the same program.
During the Cold War, the ISI worked with the CIA to arm Islamist groups that fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The ISI later backed the Taliban, which imposed an medieval brand of austere Islamic rule on the war-torn country.
Pakistan switched from top Taliban backer to frontline US ally after the September 11, 2001 attacks. But the ISI has long faced allegations of insubordination to Pakistan’s government, now led by US-friendly civilian President Asif Ali Zardari.
The New York Times reported Thursday that US officials had found evidence that ISI operatives offered money, military supplies and even strategic planning to Taliban commanders.
Links between the Taliban and ISI “are very strong and some unquestionably remain to this day,” Petraeus told public television. “It is much more difficult to say at what level.”
Such open criticism of the ISI will be music to the ears of India, which accuses Pakistani intelligence of plotting attacks in divided Kashmir and involvement in last year’s bloodbath in Mumbai that killed 165 people.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the top US military officer, told CNN there were “certainly indications” of ISI involvement with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
He voiced hope that the new US “regional approach” would try to reduce tensions over Kashmir, allowing Pakistan to re-deploy troops away from arch-enemy India and to Afghan border areas.
Obama branded Al-Qaeda a “cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within,” calling the extremists responsible for thousands of deaths and waves of destruction against Pakistanis.
He offered a major boost in aid and training to Pakistan but also issued a veiled warning.
“Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders,” Obama said.
“And we will insist that action be taken — one way or another — when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets,” Obama said.
Obama has continued George W. Bush’s policy of unmanned drone attacks inside Pakistan, which are said to have killed high-level extremists but also civilians — inflaming Pakistani public opinion.
Pakistan has urged the United States to let it carry out the drone attacks, but US officials have feared that elements within the ISI would warn the extremists.
Holbrooke acknowledged frustrations, calling the fight to bring stability to Pakistani border areas “the most daunting challenge” of the new regional plan because Pakistan had imposed a “red line.”
“The red line is unambiguous and stated publicly by the Pakistani government — no foreign troops on our soil,” Holbrooke told reporters.
“You can have a great government in Kabul — a government that fulfills every criteria of democratic governance — and if the current situation in western Pakistan continues, the instability in Afghanistan continues,” Holbrooke said.
“We all know that.”
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Pakistani intelligence backing Al-Qaeda, Taliban
WASHINGTON (AFP) — There are “indications” that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service lend support to Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, the top US military officer said on Friday.
“There are certainly indications that’s the case,” Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN when asked if elements of Pakistan’s spy agency were backing the Al-Qaeda network and its Taliban allies.
“Fundamentally that’s one of the things that has to change.”
Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been widely accused of refusing to sever its links with Islamist groups that date back to the Cold War and the US-backed fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
After the September 11 attacks, Washington demanded that Islamabad ensure the ISI cut its ties with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but there have been persistent reports that some members of the spy service remain in league with the extremist networks.
India has directly accused the powerful military intelligence agency of involvement in last year’s Mumbai attacks that killed 165 people.
Pakistani officials have denied the government has links to the Mumbai attackers or to Al-Qaeda and its allies.
Mullen’s comments came as President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, in which he called for Islamabad to crack down on insurgents operating within Pakistan’s borders.
The admiral earlier told reporters that Pakistan’s role posed a major challenge to the war in Afghanistan, although he acknowledged that Islamabad had made some progress in fighting insurgents on its border with Afghanistan.
“They’ve moved dramatically over the last seven, eight months with their Frontier Corps who’s had a big impact,” Mullen said, referring to Pakistan’s troops on the western border.
“It’s dramatically improved” compared to two years ago, he added. “They’ve done pretty well, they’ve done a lot.”
Larger numbers of Pakistan regular army troops were also now operating in the border area in recent months, he said.
Mullen expressed hope for more progress but said there was a “trust deficit” between Pakistan and the United States that he and other government officials were working to overcome.
A crucial part of the new strategy for Afghanistan was a “regional approach” that would try to reduce tension on Pakistan’s eastern border with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir to free up Pakistani troops to counter militants on the western border, Mullen said.
“One of the reasons the regional approach is so important is to de-tension the Kashmir border so that the Pakistani military is not completely tied up on that border, and they are able to train, equip and fight on the western border in the counter-insurgency effort,” he said.
Pakistan sees itself as fighting a “two-front” war, in Kashmir and against Islamist insurgents in the northwest, he added.
Asked about what leverage the United States had over Pakistan, Mullen suggested that aid Washington was offering might be linked to progress in fighting insurgents.
“There are linkages between support, aid, whatever the case might be, that I think we need to evaluate in terms of that assistance,” he said.