'ISI has links with Haqqani network'
Washington: A top American commander on Tuesday said that the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network have sanctuaries inside Pakistan and there are intelligence reports about their link with the spy agency ISI.
"There have been intelligence reports that link the ISI particularly to the Haqqani network," Joseph Dunford, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told members of Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan.
Responding to a question from Senator Donnelly, Dunford said he was not clear over what control the Pakistan Army is over the ISI.
"What control does the Pakistan army have over the ISI, in your opinion?" the Senator asked.
"Senator, I don't know. Nominally, of course, they work for General Kayani (the Pakistan Army chief). General Kayani is a former director of the ISI. My sense is that anything the ISI does is known by General Kayani, but I can't confirm that," the American general said.
"I do think that the Afghan Taliban have sanctuary.. particularly the Haqqani Network have sanctuary inside of Pakistan, and they get support from individuals in Pakistan. But I don't believe anybody controls them," he said when asked how much control Pakistan has over these terrorist outfits.
Responding to another question from Senator John McCain, Dunford said Pakistan has not been able to take effective action against the terrorist safe havens inside the country.
In response to another question from Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the General said that of late the rhetoric from Pakistan has changed.
"At this point, I could only tell you that the rhetoric from Pakistan has changed. General Kayani has pledged cooperation. We have seen, at the tactical level, increased levels of cooperation since the fall," he said.
"We have seen increased cooperation on the ground lines of communication as we've tried to move our equipment back and forth through Pakistan. General Kayani has pledged I will meet with him on a monthly basis individually, and we also will have routine meetings at the trilateral level with Afghan leadership, as well as General Kayani," Dunford said.
Levin in his remarks said that the greatest challenge to Afghanistan security isn't the Taliban but the Pakistan-based sanctuaries for militant extremists launching cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
"Pakistan has said that it supports a stable and secure Afghanistan, but its actions belie its words. The US-Pakistan relationship will not be normalized so long as those extremist safe havens exist on Pakistani territory," Levin said.