US wants ISI to `strategically shift its focus`

A top American military official says that there have been elements of the ISI that have got ties with extremist organisations.

Updated: Jul 30, 2010, 13:52 PM IST

Washington: Issuing a stern warning to ISI, a top American military official has asked the Pakistani spy agency to "strategically shift its focus", as any ties with the terrorist outfits that has come to light in the wake of the WikiLeaks episode is unacceptable.

"There have been elements of the ISI that have got relationships with extremist organisations, and we consider that unacceptable," Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference along with the Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The strong-worded statement from Admiral Mullen, who has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Pak Army, comes in the wake of the increasing domestic pressure - from lawmakers, media and think-tank - following revelation by the voluminous classified documents released by WikiLeaks, according to which the ISI continues to help and assist the Taliban and al Qaeda against US forces in its war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

"In the long run, I think that the ISI has to strategically shift its -- tied in great part to what the Secretary`s laid out -- focused on its view of its own
national-security interests," Mullen said in response to a question in which he was asked to respond to the remarks made by the British Prime Minister David Cameroon in India that Britain would not tolerate export of terrorism by Pakistan.

"These are issues that... and I have seen some of this; I was just with General Kayani again, and this is a subject we frequently discuss. And they have, as the Secretary (of Defence) said, in that country, captured lots of terrorists, killed lots of terrorists, focused on terrorism. And they are strategically shifting," he noted.

"That doesn`t mean that they are through that shift at all, and they are still focused on rebuilding this trust as well, and it is not yet rebuilt," Mullen said.

In the last year and a half, Mullen is said to have made more than 18 trips and have had more than two dozen meetings with Kayani, the Pak Army Chief.

Responding to the same question, Gates said over the past 18 months the Pakistani government has become increasingly aggressive in taking on terrorists in the northwestern part of their country.

"They have 140,000 troops in that area. If you had asked me would they be aggressively pursuing the Taliban in South Waziristan a year or two ago, I would have thought that impossible," he observed.

"So I think what we have seen, and one of the reasons why these documents are dated is that in the last 18 months or so there has been a dramatic change, in my view, in Pakistan`s willingness to take on insurgents and terrorists, their willingness to put their own military at risk and take casualties in going after this. Our cooperation has been steadily expanding," Gates said.