Washington: Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is still in bed with some parts of the jihadi terror syndicate like the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and the Afghan Taliban, a former CIA officer has said.
“The Pakistani army is genuinely at war with parts of the syndicate of jihadi terror in Pakistan like al Qaeda and the Taliban. It has more than 140,000 troops engaged in operations against the militants along the Afghan border. Some 35,000 Pakistanis including several thousand soldiers have died in the fighting since 2001, the equivalent of a dozen 911s. Dozens of ISI men have died,” Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Saban Center in the Brookings Institution, wrote in YaleGlobal Online.
“But the ISI is also still in bed with other parts of the syndicate like Lashkar e Tayyiba, the group that attacked Mumbai in 2008, and the Afghan Taliban that fights NATO. Despite years of American complaints, those partnerships are still intact,” he added.
However, the terrorists do not stay in the lanes the ISI wants them to stay in, said Riedel, citing an example that both the LeT and the Taliban eulogized Osama bin Laden after his death and mourned the departure of a great “hero” of their movements.
He pointed out that the Pakistan Army’s ambivalence about the jihad flows from its deep obsession with India.
“Pakistan – with American help – created the jihad in the 1980s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. But from the start the ISI, commanded by then dictator Zia ul Huq and his brilliant ISI director general Akhtar Rahman, planned to use jihadi groups against India as well and build an international cadre of mujahedin to help fight India,” he said.
“Over the decades the “S” Department of ISI established close connections with scores of jihadi groups, becoming a state within ISI, which in turn is a state within the army. The army decides national-security policy with little or no input from the political establishment,” he added.
Riedel, an adjunct professor at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, noted that the jihadist penetrations of the army raise persistent questions about the security of Pakistan’s nukes.
He also discounted the notion that Pakistan is a failed state or a failing state, saying that it functions as effectively today as in decades past.
“Rather it is a state under siege from a radical syndicate of terror groups loosely aligned together with the goal of creating an extremist jihadist state in south Asia. They want to hijack Pakistan and its weapons,” he added.
The policies that would help wean the Pakistani army off its obsession with India and jihad are well known, the former CIA oficer said.
“A concerted effort to end the Indo-Pakistani conflict is essential. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, despite Mumbai, is trying to do just that. But it is a hard challenge,” he noted.