`US suspects ISI behind Kabul Embassy attack`

Last Updated: Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 17:04

Washington: US suspects that Pakistan`s
powerful spy agency ISI could be behind the attack on its
Embassy in Kabul this week and is looking for direct evidence
in this regard.

A senior US defence official said that given the ISI`s
history of supporting and sheltering the Haqqanis, it was
"almost reflexive" to see if the spy agency had any role in
the latest Kabul violence that left 27 people dead.

"The possibility of ISI involvement was already being
considered within hours of the attack`s conclusion when
President Barack Obama`s National Security Council met
Wednesday, said a US official," The Wall Street Journal
reported today.

The American suspicions are being partly fuelled by
growing concerns that deteriorating bilateral relations, and
the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, may be pushing
elements of Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency
to more closely embrace the Haqqani network, the Taliban
faction blamed for this week`s violence and a spate of attacks
in and around Kabul.

Neither the ISI nor the Pakistani military, of which the
spy agency is part, immediately responded to the US
suspicions, the WSJ said, adding that Pakistani government
officials dismissed the suspicions as insulting and unfair.

Top US officials, including Defence Secretary Leon
Panetta, have already blamed the violence in Kabul on the
Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent faction whose history is
intertwined with the ISI. The Pakistani spy agency has aided
Haqqani network attacks in Kabul in past years, officials say.

The US has warned the Pakistanis of stronger action if the
group wasn`t reined in.

Afghan officials say mobile phones found on the slain
attackers in this week`s commando-style raid in Kabul indicate
they were in contact with people from "outside Afghanistan"a
typical Afghan way of indirectly pointing to Pakistan.

Even so, US and Afghan officials have stopped short of
publicly linking the attack to the ISI, as they did after past
attacks in Kabul, such as the 2008 and 2009 bombings of the
Indian Embassy in Kabul.

In those and other cases, US officials said that
communications intercepts and other intelligence directly
linked the ISI to the attacks. Yet it took months to reach
that conclusion and publicise it.

What is different this time is the speed with which some
US officials publicly said they were exploring ISI links, a
sign of the growing frustration of US officials who in recent
months have become more public in their finger-pointing at
Pakistan for its coordination with Islamist militant groups.

According to the daily, a senior US defence official said
there is currently no "actionable intelligence" linking
Pakistan`s spy service to this week`s attack.

"But we`re looking for it closely," the defence official
said shortly after the violence ended," the official was
quoted as saying.

"That illustrates the deep vein of mistrust now running
through the relationship between Washington and Islamabad,"
the officials said.

"The level of patience has just gone out the window," Seth
Jones, a political scientist at the Rand Corp, who has spent
much of the past two years working with the US military in
Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

"People aren`t keeping it inside anymore and containing it
in a circle that, for a while, was just private," he said.

"US officials say they are looking for evidence that
directly links elements of Pakistan`s powerful spy agency to
this week`s assault on the US Embassy and coalition
headquarters in Kabul, a sign of just how rancorous relations
have become between the two allies in the fight against al
Qaeda and the Taliban," the daily said.

A direct attack on an American embassy "isn`t something we
can treat as business-as-usual," said the US defense official.

Even if no ISI link is found, the Pakistani relationship
with the Haqqanis is "long past unacceptable," the official

"Missteps by both the US and Pakistan this year have led
to a sharp deterioration in relations, which may also be
prompting Islamabad to more closely embrace militant groups
from which it has sought to publicly distance itself in recent
years, according to US officials and Mr Jones of Rand," the
daily said.


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First Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 12:41

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