Washington: A top Obama administration official has said that the US has no choice but to “stay engaged” with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) considering the important role the intelligence agency plays in Pakistan’s strategy formulation.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, while talking to reporters on his flight enroute to New Delhi, said though Washington disagrees with the ISI on various issues, but it has no choice other than standing with it, as it needs the agency’s help to counter the aims of terror organisations based in the region.
Mullen’s statement coincided with another top US official, Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke’s New Delhi trip, who expressed concern over the strengthening links between the Pakistani and Afghan terror groups.
Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Holbrooke said that the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) is only one of many such organisations which are trying to destabilise the region by igniting a military conflict between India and Pakistan.
Holbrooke said that not only the LeT, but both the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are also on the look out for creating trouble in South Asia.
“They seem to be growing closer together ... (and) their long-term objective is the same: to create the maximum number of problems between India and Pakistan ... to create a crisis,” Holbrooke, who was on a two-day visit to India, said.
Commenting India’s role in stabilising Afghanistan, the special envoy underlined that New Delhi has also a legitimate role to play in bringing peace to the war torn country.
“There is an implication that there is zero-sum game here, that if we increase our interactions with Pakistan we are somehow diminishing India. I can’t even imagine why anyone would think that India is being diminished if we improve relations with Pakistan. That’s in India’s interests,” Holbrooke said.
“We have repeatedly acknowledged and stressed that India has an important role to play. Our goal is to have full transparency with India on what’s going on in Afghanistan,” he added.
Earlier, Mullen, while praising India for showing restraint after the ghastly 26/11 attacks, said that extremists may try to repeat the incident that left 166 dead and over 300 injured.
“I`ve worried a great deal about a repeat attack, of something like that,” Mullen said.
He stressed that he along with the Obama administration is focussed on making sure “this doesn`t happen again”.
The top US military official pointed out that the Mumbai terror attack showed that how a handful of militants could have a “strategic impact” and bring two nuclear powered nations on the threshold of a full-scale military conflict.
“One of the things that struck me then and is still of great concern is that those terrorists could bring two countries closer (to possible conflict). It didn`t bring them to the brink (of war) but it brought them closer,” Mullen said.