‘ISI had free hand to aid insurgency in India, Afghanistan’ (Lead)

July 26th, 2010 - 2:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 26 (IANS) For years Pakistan’s spy service ISI was actually aiding the Afghan insurgency with a wing operating against Afghanistan and India having a free hand to do so, according to what is being touted as the “biggest leak in intelligence history”.

Called “The War Logs”, 92,201 secret US military documents spanning six years of the war in Afghanistan present the military’s own raw data on the war, including numbers killed, casualties, threat reports and the like, according to whistle blower website WikiLeaks.org founder Julian Assange.

Three major media outlets, the New York Times, London’s Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel, were given access to the logs several weeks ago to review and verify their authenticity before their online release Sunday.

The leaked documents, according to the Times suggest the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency, Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, “working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks” runs what American officials have long suspected is a double game.

Pakistan, they hint, “allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders”.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul, the influential US daily said.

American officials, it said, have described the ISI as a rigidly hierarchical organisation that has little tolerance for “rogue” activity.

“But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s ‘S Wing’ - which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India - broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.”

American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack, the Times said. “But in July 2008, the CIA’s deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s Embassy in Kabul.”

From the current trove, one report according to the Times shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack.

The documents indicate that Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, who ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

The documents indicate that from July to October 2009, nine threat reports detailed movements by Taliban suicide bombers from Pakistan into populated areas of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, Kunduz and Kabul, the Times said.

Some of the bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections, held last August.

In other instances, American intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

The White House condemned the “irresponsible leaks” while noting that the bulk of the material released was from the Bush administration.

“On Dec. 1, 2009, President (Barack) Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on Al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said in a statement.

Since then “counter-terrorism cooperation has led to significant blows against Al Qaeda’s leadership”, he said but tacitly acknowledged Pakistan needs to do more to break the Taliban’s momentum.

“Yet the Pakistani government - and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services - must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups,” Jones said. “The balance must shift decisively against Al Qaeda and its extremist allies.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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