Mullen: Pak­istani spy agency as­sists ter­ror­ists

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

Pak­istan’s in­tel­li­gence agency helped ter­ror­ists plan and con­duct an at­tack on the U.S. Em­bassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, ear­lier this month, Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sept. 22.

The com­ments marked the first time a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial has pub­licly linked Pak­istan’s In­terSer­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) agency to an at­tack on U.S. in­ter­ests in Afghanistan.

Tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Adm. Mullen said the ISI also helped the Haqqani Net­work, a Pak­istan-based ter­ror­ist group, plan a truck-bomb at­tack near a NATO mil­i­tary base on Sept. 10. Four Afghans were killed and 77 U.S. troops in­jured in the at­tack in War­dak prov­ince, 30 miles south of Kabul.

“With ISI sup­port, Haqqani op­er­a­tives planned and con­ducted that truck-bomb at­tack, as well as the as­sault on our em­bassy,” Adm. Mullen said.

He added that the United States also has “cred­i­ble in­tel­li­gence” that the ISI also was be­hind a June 28 at­tack on the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in the Afghan cap­i­tal, Kabul, as well as smaller at­tacks.

The Haqqani Net­work, led by the fa­ther-son duo Jalalud­din and Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani, op­er­ates from safe havens in Pak­istan’s North Waziris­tan re­gion, which abuts Afghanistan. The Haqqa­nis al­low al Qaeda and the Tal­iban to use its safe havens in Pak­istan.

“The Haqqani Net­work [. . .] acts as a ver­i­ta­ble arm” of Pak­istan’s ISI, Adm. Mullen said.

Other U.S. and Western of­fi­cials fre­quently cite close ties be­tween the ISI and the Haqqani Net­work.

“The fact re­mains that the Quetta Shura [the Pak­istani Tal­iban] and the Haqqani Net­work oper­ate from Pak­istan with im­punity. Ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions serv­ing as prox­ies of the govern­ment of Pak­istan are at­tack­ing Afghan troops and civil­ians as well as U.S. soldiers,” Adm. Mullen said in writ­ten tes­ti­mony to the com­mit­tee.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials deny that such link­ages ex­ist. A Pak­istani Em­bassy spokesman on Sept. 22 did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

Adm. Mullen’s re­marks un­der­score Washington’s grow­ing frus­tra­tion with Is­lam­abad’s se­lec­tive co­op­er­a­tion in the fight against ter­ror­ist groups.

The U.S.-Pak­istani re­la­tion­ship sank to its low­est point af­ter a May 1 raid by U.S. com­man­dos that re­sulted in the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Ab­bot­tabad, about 35 miles north of Is­lam­abad.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials were not in­formed of the raid in ad­vance, and the dis­cov­ery of bin Laden liv­ing com­fort­ably in a man­sion near the Pak­istani cap­i­tal raised ques­tions of Pak­istani com­plic­ity in shel­ter­ing the ter­ror­ist.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s de­ci­sion to es­ca­late a covert CIA pro­gram that in­volves fir­ing mis­siles from un­manned Preda­tor drones at ter­ror­ists in­side Pak­istan fur­ther strained the re­la­tion­ship.

A ma­jor­ity of Pak­ista­nis op- pose the drone strikes, which they see as a vi­o­la­tion of their sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory.

El­e­ments in Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity ser­vices in the past have warned the Haqqa­nis of im­pend­ing Preda­tor strikes.

A Western of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity, said Pak­istan has been re­luc­tant to pur­sue groups such as the Haqqani Net­work, which it views as its prox­ies in neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan.

On Sept. 13, male mil­i­tants dressed like women in head-to­toe burqas in­fil­trated Kabul’s so­called “ring of steel” se­cu­rity perime­ter and at­tacked the U.S. Em­bassy and NATO head­quar­ters, us­ing weapons smug­gled in truck­loads of con­struc­tion ma­te­rial.

U.S. and Afghan of­fi­cials have blamed the Haqqani Net­work for the 20-hour as­sault that left 11 civil­ians, four Afghan po­lice of­fi­cers and 10 in­sur­gents dead.

“In choos­ing to use vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism as an in­stru­ment of pol­icy, the govern­ment of Pak­istan — and most es­pe­cially the Pak­istani army and ISI — jeop­ar­dizes not only the prospect of our strate­gic part­ner­ship, but Pak-

The com­ments marked the first time a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial has pub­licly linked Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser vices In­tel­li­gence agency to an at­tack on U.S. in­ter­ests in Afghanistan.

is­tan’s op­por­tu­nity to be a re­spected na­tion with le­git­i­mate re­gional in­flu­ence,” Adm. Mullen said.

“They may be­lieve that by us­ing these prox­ies, they are hedg­ing their bets or re­dress­ing what they feel is an im­bal­ance in re­gional power. But in re­al­ity, they have al­ready lost that bet,” he said.

“By ex­port­ing vi­o­lence, they’ve eroded their in­ter­nal se­cu­rity and their po­si­tion in the re­gion. They have un­der­mined their in­ter­na­tional cred­i­bil­ity and threat­ened their eco­nomic well-be­ing,” he added.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, has writ­ten re­peat­edly to Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton urg­ing her to des­ig­nate the Haqqani Net­work as a for­eign ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Such a des­ig­na­tion would freeze the group’s U.S. as­sets and out­law co­op­er­a­tion be­tween U.S. cit­i­zens and the ter­ror­ists.

“This step is long over­due,” Mr. Levin said.

In re­cent meet­ings with Pak­istan’s army chief, Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, Adm. Mullen has urged Pak­istan to stop pro­vid­ing safe havens to the Haqqani Net­work. CIA Di­rec­tor David H. Pe­traeus con­veyed a sim­i­lar mes­sage to the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in a meet­ing in Washington last week.

“There’s been a very clear mes­sage to them and to oth­ers that they must take steps to pre­vent the safe haven that the Haqqa­nis are us­ing,” De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta said at the Se­nate com­mit­tee hear­ing.

In a meet­ing that lasted more than three hours in New York over the Sept. 17-18 week­end, Mrs. Clin­ton pressed Pak­istani For­eign Min­is­ter Hina Rab­bani Khar on act­ing against the Haqqani Net­work.

“We were spe­cific about the need for Pak­istan to take ac­tion on the Haqqani Net­work,” a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial, who briefed re­porters on the meet­ing, said on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

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