C.I.A. Outlines Pakistan Links With Militants
July 30, 2008U.S. Presses Pakistani Government to Place Its Spy Agency Under Civilian Control
C.I.A. Outlines Pakistan Links With Militants
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — A top Central Intelligence Agency official traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials.
The C.I.A. emissary presented evidence showing that members of the spy service had deepened their ties with some militant groups that were responsible for a surge of violence in Afghanistan, possibly including the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the officials said.
The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants.
The C.I.A. assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The C.I.A. has depended heavily on the ISI for information about militants in Pakistan, despite longstanding concerns about divided loyalties within the Pakistani spy service, which had close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks.
That ISI officers have maintained important ties to anti-American militants has been the subject of previous reports in The New York Times. But the C.I.A. and the Bush administration have generally sought to avoid criticism of Pakistan, which they regard as a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism.
The visit to Pakistan by the C.I.A. official, Stephen R. Kappes, the agency’s deputy director, was described by several American military and intelligence officials in interviews in recent days. Some of those who were interviewed made clear that they welcomed the decision by the C.I.A. to take a harder line toward the ISI’s dealings with militant groups.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, is currently in Washington meeting with Bush administration officials. A White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, would not say whether President Bush had raised the issue during his meeting on Monday with Mr. Gilani. In an interview broadcast Tuesday on the PBS program “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Mr. Gilani said he rejected as “not believable” any assertions of ISI’s links to the militants. “We would not allow that,” he said.
The Haqqani network and other militants operating in the tribal areas along the Afghan border are said by American intelligence officials to be responsible for increasingly deadly and complex attacks inside Afghanistan, and to have helped Al Qaeda establish a safe haven in the tribal areas.
Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the acting commander of American forces in Southwest Asia, made an unannounced visit to the tribal areas on Monday, a further reflection of American concern.
The ISI has for decades maintained contacts with various militant groups in the tribal areas and elsewhere, both for gathering intelligence and as proxies to exert influence on neighboring India and Afghanistan. It is unclear whether the C.I.A. officials have concluded that contacts between the ISI and militant groups are blessed at the highest levels of Pakistan’s spy service and military, or are carried out by rogue elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus.
With Pakistan’s new civilian government struggling to assert control over the country’s spy service, there are concerns in Washington that the ISI may become even more powerful than when President Pervez Musharraf controlled the military and the government. Last weekend, Pakistani military and intelligence officials thwarted an attempt by the government in Islamabad to put the ISI more directly under civilian control.
Mr. Kappes made his secret visit to Pakistan on July 12, joining Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for meetings with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders.
“It was a very pointed message saying, ‘Look, we know there’s a connection, not just with Haqqani but also with other bad guys and ISI, and we think you could do more and we want you to do more about it,’ ” one senior American official said of the message to Pakistan. The official was briefed on the meetings; like others who agreed to talk about it, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic delicacy of Mr. Kappes’s message.
The meetings took place days after a suicide bomber attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul, killing dozens. Afghanistan’s government has publicly accused the ISI of having a hand in the attack, an assertion American officials have not corroborated.
The decision to have Mr. Kappes deliver the message about the spy service was an unusual one, and could be a sign that the relationship between the C.I.A. and the ISI, which has long been marked by mutual suspicion as well as mutual dependence, may be deteriorating.
The trip is reminiscent of a secret visit that the top two American intelligence officials made to Pakistan in January. Those officials — Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director — sought to press Mr. Musharraf to allow the C.I.A. greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories.
It was the ISI, backed by millions of covert dollars from the C.I.A., that ran arms to guerrillas fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It is now American troops who are dying in Afghanistan, and intelligence officials believe those longstanding ties between Pakistani spies and militants may be part of an effort to destabilize Afghanistan.
Spokesmen for the White House and the C.I.A. declined to comment about the visit by Mr. Kappes or about the agency’s assessment. A spokesman for Admiral Mullen, Capt. John Kirby, declined to comment on the meetings, saying “the chairman desires to keep these meetings private and therefore it would be inappropriate to discuss any details.”
Admiral Mullen and Mr. Kappes met in Islamabad with several high-ranking Pakistani officials. They included Mr. Gilani; Mr. Musharraf; Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff and former ISI director; and Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, the current ISI director.
One American counterterrorism official said there was no evidence of Pakistan’s government’s direct support of Al Qaeda. He said, however, there were “genuine and longstanding concerns about Pakistan’s ties to the Haqqani network, which of course has links to Al Qaeda.”
American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months sounded an increasingly shrill alarm about the threat posed by Mr. Haqqani’s network. Earlier this year, American military officials pressed the American ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, to get Pakistani troops to strike Haqqani network targets in the tribal areas.
Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan until last month, frequently discussed the ISI’s contacts with militant groups with General Kayani, Pakistan’s military chief.
During his visit to the tribal areas on Monday, General Dempsey met with top Pakistani commanders in Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan, where Pakistan’s 11th Army Corps and Frontier Corps paramilitary force have a headquarters, to discuss the security situation in the region, Pakistani officials said.
North Waziristan, the most lawless of the tribal areas, is a hub of Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, and the base of operations for the Haqqani network.
On Tuesday, Pakistani security forces raided an abandoned seminary owned by Mr. Haqqani, Pakistani officials said. No arrests were made.
Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.
August 2, 2008
U.S. Presses Pakistani Government to Place Its Spy Agency Under Civilian Control
By HELENE COOPER and MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is increasing pressure on Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government to bring the country’s spy service under civilian control, according to American and Pakistani officials.
During meetings in Washington this week with Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, senior Bush administration officials pressed their Pakistani counterparts to assert control over Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the American officials said. The pressure comes as relations between India and Pakistan deteriorate following reports of ISI involvement in the recent bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The American pressure reflects heightened concerns at the State Department, Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency that operatives in the ISI, who have long been believed to have close ties to Pakistani militants, have become bolder and more open in their support for militant Islamist organizations.
The New York Times reported this week that American intelligence agencies had said they have evidence that members of the ISI helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul.
In an interview on Friday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said that American authorities have yet to show Pakistani officials specific evidence to support that conclusion.
“If any evidence were to be presented against any individual in Pakistan, or against the interest of Pakistan’s neighbors, then the government would certainly act on that evidence,” he said.
Mr. Haqqani hinted, however, that the civilian government would investigate any ISI officers who might be in league with militants, and laid blame on President Pervez Musharraf, who was firmly in power until elections earlier this year.
“Several outstanding problems in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan that the elected government inherited from the past are currently being resolved,” Mr. Haqqani said. “These include issues of trust between our two intelligence services.”
But bringing the ISI under civilian authority is easier said than done, as Pakistan’s new government found out last week. On Saturday night, while Mr. Gilani was en route to Washington, his government announced that the ISI would report to the country’s Interior Ministry.
One day later, after objections from inside Pakistan’s security apparatus, the government issued a clarification, saying that it had been “misinterpreted” and that the decree only “re-emphasizes more coordination” between the Interior Ministry and the ISI.
The Indian foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, said Friday that his country’s relationship with Pakistan had sunk to its lowest level since 2003, when the nuclear rivals stepped back from the brink of war and began peace talks.
“If you ask me to describe the state of the dialogue, it is in a place where it hasn’t been in the last four years,” Mr. Menon told journalists at the annual meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.
“We face a situation where things have happened in the recent past which were unfortunate and which, quite frankly, have affected the future of the dialogue,” he said.
India has not cut off the peace talks, and Indian officials have said privately that the peace effort has been strained by political problems in Pakistan and the openings they may have created for hard-line forces.
“If you have this fluid situation, you have elements within the army, within the ISI, who have the opportunity to move forward with their own agenda, with respect to Afghanistan and India,” a senior Indian official said last week.
“The peace process is in limbo,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “There is no direction. This is what has opened up the door to these elements.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India is scheduled to meet with Mr. Gilani on Saturday in Colombo.
At the State Department, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte has been in charge of the administration’s efforts to press Pakistan, administration officials said. Several officials noted that some officials in the Bush administration had begun to express a nostalgia for Mr. Musharraf, who has largely been pushed to the sidelines since his party lost elections in February.
While the State Department has publicly called for democratic elections and civilian rule in Pakistan, some officials said they believed that Mr. Musharraf had more authority to bring reform to the security services.
Another Bush administration official said Pakistan’s government had yet to assure the administration that it could control the ISI. “There are real questions about the organization’s loyalty,” the official said. “In the wake of political gridlock and a lack of a clear political direction, some elements of the ISI have started to exercise certain prerogatives.”
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.
But some experts said the Bush administration should be more patient in allowing the new Pakistani government to assert its authority after years of military rule in Pakistan.
“In general, this administration at its upper reaches has been cool to the elected government from the start,” said Teresita Schaffer, a Pakistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They like to look at Musharraf as a factor for stability.”
A senior Pakistani official sharply disputed that Mr. Musharraf had been more effective at exerting control over the ISI. “It’s not disarray in the civilian government that has brought a lot of this to light,” the senior official said. “It’s the fact that the change of government has brought out to the open a lot that was kept secret before.”
Several foreign policy experts noted that there was nothing new in the ISI’s close ties to militant Islamist groups. “People tend to forget the frustrations that were there when Musharraf was in place,” said Daniel Markey, a former South Asia expert at the State Department. “The civilians are a mess right now, and the government is in a state of flux. When there’s flux, individuals in the ISI revert to form.”
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from Bangalore, India, and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan.