Directorate S probed
U.S. intelligence and security agencies are sifting through thousands of pages of documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s lair in Pakistan in a hunt for links between the al Qaeda leader and Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence service.
Specifically, spies are trying to pinpoint whether any ISI officers were involved in hiding and supporting bin Laden through ISI’s shadowy Directorate S, the unit that in the past was the covert liaison with foreign terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said May 11 that there were “elements” of the ISI that “knew and looked the other way” on bin Laden’s logistics network in Pakistan.
“But we can’t say the institutions, yet, knew and looked the other way,” the Michigan Republican added.
“We know that certain ISI members still have a sympathy toward the Taliban, and certain al Qaeda elements, and the Haqqani network.”
Intelligence officials say ultimate power in Pakistan is not held by civilian government leaders but with two key officials: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, a former ISI chief, and current ISI Director Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
However, Directorate S is believed to be a power unto itself, operating outside the control of both military leaders, officials said.
A 2009 cable made public recently by WikiLeaks stated that in preparation for the visit to the United States by Gen. Kayani, “We [U.S. officials] need to lay down a clear marker that Pakistan’s Army/ISI must stop overt or tacit support for militant proxies” including the Haqqani network, Commander Nazir, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Gen. Kayani was ISI director from 2004 to 2007, a period when bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was built and the terrorist leader moved into it.
According to the cable, the Pakistan military and ISI do not share the views of civilian Pakistani leaders that the country’s biggest threat comes from the growing militant insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
“The military and ISI have not yet made that leap; they still view India as their principle threat and Afghanistan as strategic depth in a possible conflict with India,” the cable said.
“They continue to provide overt or tacit support for proxy forces, including the Haqqani group, Commander Nazir, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and Lashkare-Taiba as a foreign policy tool.”
The Haqqani group in Afghanistan is headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a close associate of bin Laden from the 1980s.
Directorate S has been linked in the past by U.S. intelligence to sub rosa activities beyond support for terrorists, including drug trafficking. It also is believed to be the main covert link between Pakistan’s government and the Islamist Taliban militia, currently the target of the U.S.led war in Afghanistan.
Officially, the Obama administration to date has said there is no evidence in the captured files linking the Pakistani government, military or intelligence “leaders” to the support network in Pakistan for al Qaeda. But the administration remains convinced there was an organized unit that was protecting bin Laden.