“Balochis­tan Is the ISI’s new­est pri­or­ity”

Ger­man po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Hein Kiessling lived in Pak­istan be­tween 1989 and 2002. The re­la­tion­ships he built in that time earned him un­fet­tered ac­cess to the Pak­istani army. His new book, Faith, Unity, Dis­ci­pline: The ISI of Pak­istan, draws on that to pr

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Q.

The Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan in 1979 was, you write, the making of the ISI... A. Q.

The ISI knew Osama bin Laden (OBL) was in Ab­bot­tabad? Q. Why did the ISI tar­get Mumbai? A.

They wanted to bring some move­ment on the Kash­mir is­sue; per­haps teach In­dia a les­son. A.

Gen­eral Mushar­raf knew OBL was there. And Gen­eral Kayani (for­mer Chief of Army Staff) cer­tainly knew. Per­haps two other peo­ple within the ISI knew. I be­lieve OBL was sold for the $25 mil­lion bounty. But the Pak­istan army couldn’t just hand him over to the Amer­i­cans, nor could they live with be­ing the killers of the Al Qaeda icon. Q. What are the ISI’s new pri­or­i­ties? A.

Not Afghanistan, not Kash­mir. It’s Balochis­tan. This is be­cause the Chi­nese have de­manded se­cu­rity for their na­tion­als work­ing on the eco­nomic cor­ri­dor. Daesh, or ISIS, is another pri­or­ity be­cause it has en­tered Afghanistan. The ISI, I feel, hasn’t made up its mind about Daesh—I asked them in 2015, and still haven’t got a re­sponse. Q.

Did the Pak­istan army know about the 26/11 Mumbai at­tacks? A. An op­er­a­tion like Mumbai—that needed —San­deep Un­nithan

Yes, it trans­formed the ISI from an ob­scure out­fit into what it is to­day. The Soviet with­drawal from Afghanistan in 1988 was the ISI’s first big suc­cess. After 9/11, the ISI was re­struc­tured—it re­birthed the Tal­iban in 2004. I would rate it as one of the best in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in Asia, com­pa­ra­ble even to Mos­sad. ex­per­tise, money and time to pre­pare—could not have been done with­out the knowl­edge of the ser­vice’s lead­er­ship. Mushar­raf must have given his nod to the op­er­a­tion.

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