For years, American military and intelligence officials have claimed the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was directly supporting various terror groups with money, weapons, information, and more. On September 22, however, top commanders told Congress that the links were undeniable. Some analysts even said Pakistan’s behavior came perilously close to an act of war.
During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen (pictured, above left) dropped several bombshells that made headlines worldwide. “The [anti-American] Haqqani [terror] network ... acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” he told lawmakers.
According to Mullen, operatives who planned and conducted several high-profile attacks on U.S. troops and the American embassy in Kabul as recently as this month did so “with ISI support.” There is also “credible intelligence” indicating that the network was responsible for a series of “smaller but effective operations,” he said, noting that the Pakistani regime had undermined its credibility and threatened its economic well-being.
“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence,” Mullen charged.
But the strategy won’t end well for the nuclear-armed regime, he concluded. “They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power,” Mullen said. “But in reality, they have already lost that bet.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta echoed the remarks during the hearing, but refused to say what might be done about the problem. “The first order now is to put as much pressure on Pakistan as we can to deal with this issue,” he said, avoiding specifics even after Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) complained that “pressure” had already been attempted unsuccessfully for years.
But Congress and the administration deserve part of the blame as well, according to critics. Despite the ties between the ISI and groups targeting U.S government interests, in 2010 Pakistan received almost $5 billion in American foreign aid. And the Obama administration was reportedly lobbying for even more handouts than originally requested in the 2012 aid package.
Among the alleged beneficiaries of American taxpayer largesse being funneled through Pakistan, according to U.S. officials, are: The Taliban in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, and others. A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said even Osama bin Laden himself may have had assistance from within Pakistan’s security services in recent years.
After the reported assassination of bin Laden in May, questions about possible aid provided to the wanted terrorist by the ISI and other Pakistani agencies exploded. Senior U.S. lawmakers even began threatening to scale back taxpayer handouts to the regime if it failed to show sufficient devotion to America’s terror war.
"The United States provides billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan,” complained Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) at the time. “Before we send another dime, we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism."
More than a few other lawmakers raised concerns about the ISI’s involvement with Islamic terror and bin Laden as well. However, none mentioned the fact that the former chief of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) bin Laden unit was ordered to stand down at least 10 times when he had the terror leader within his grasp — let alone the U.S. government's role in creating the monster to begin with.
In another twist to the story, the CIA is known to have had a cozy relationship with the ISI for decades. As far back as the 1980s, for example, the American government was using the Pakistani spy agency to arm and train the Islamist Mujahideen in Afghanistan — the precursors of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other groups being variously targeted and manipulated by the U.S. government around the world today. (At the time, the Mujahideen were engaged in guerilla-style operations against the Soviet troops who were occupying Afghanistan.)
More recently, the deadly terror attack in Mumbai, India, carried out by the ISI-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba group was also tied by experts and officials to the CIA and U.S. intelligence agencies. All associations between one of the masterminds behind the attack, “former” U.S. government agent David Coleman Headley, were classified after his involvement became public.
The odd behavior of the Obama administration and federal officials in protecting Headley raised serious suspicions about America’s role in the attack — especially after the ex-DEA agent admitted to planning the mayhem that left over 150 people dead. Officials around the world publicly raised the alarm. But in India — which has reportedly been targeted by Pakistan’s “proxy” terror groups from Afghanistan to Kashmir — the outrage was particularly intense.
“Headley's links with the US intelligence will now remain classified information and the Pakistani nationals involved in the Mumbai attacks will get away scot-free,” noted a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, the Soviet Union and Afghanistan named M.K. Bhadrakumar. As the scandal was unfolding, he said Obama had something “extremely explosive” to hide.
“Clearly, the Obama administration was apprehensive that Headley might spill the beans if the Indians got hold of him and the trail could then lead to his links with the CIA, the [Lashkar-e-Taiba] and the Pakistani military,” Bhadrakumar noted in a piece for the Asia Times.
In Libya, meanwhile, the Obama administration, NATO and the CIA are also working closely with an array of al Qaeda terrorists and Islamic extremists to overthrow Gaddafi‘s regime. The Western-backed rebel military chief of Tripoli, for example, was the founder of a group that merged with al Qaeda in 2007 while supplying foreign fighters to wage Jihad against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Some analysts have claimed that accusations against Pakistan and its spy agency are overblown. And after Mullen’s recent Congressional testimony, lower-ranking defense officials told the Washington Post that Mullen had overstated the case.
Pakistani authorities are even said to be cooperating behind the scenes with the CIA’s massive assassination program operating inside the country. But in addition to close ties with the CIA, the ISI and the broader Pakistani regime are also dedicated allies of the communist dictatorship ruling mainland China.
Other experts have been saying for years that Pakistan might be on the U.S. government’s list of future targets for open military intervention, claiming that hysteria over alleged ISI support for terrorism would be used as a justification. And as if on cue, senior American lawmakers have started ramping up the rhetoric.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, warned this week in an interview with Fox News that “we’re going to have to put all options on the table, including defending our troops.” Even more ominously, he also added: “If the experts believe that we need to elevate our response, they will have a lot of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.”
Meanwhile, billions in U.S. foreign aid continue flowing into Pakistani government coffers for “security” and “economic development” as the Obama administration works to install an Islamist regime and Sharia law in Libya.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. government is trying to negotiate with the Taliban and allow it back into the halls of power. And even as officials complain about Pakistani support for the Afghan warriors, a U.S. military report showed American taxpayers have showered them with hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.