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Pakistan's top spy agency is coming under increased pressure over its alleged links to and sponsorship of terrorists and Taliban insurgents, as the fallout continues from Sunday's leak of tens of thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is ostensibly cooperating with the US in an effort to squeeze Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies in the remote mountainous regions along the border with Afghanistan. But Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has long been suspected of playing a double game, with some elements in the spy agency allegedly having links to the Taliban and other terror groups targeting India and other foreign interests.
"That is why this relationship is important. It should be a relationship based on a very clear message: that it is not right to have any relationship with groups that are promoting terror. Democratic states that want to be part of the developed world cannot do that. The message to Pakistan from the US and the UK is very clear on that point."
Cameron said the United Kingdom and India had both suffered the effects of terrorism originating in Pakistan, citing the 2005 attack on the London subway that killed 52, and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 172. India blames Pakistan for having a hand in the Mumbai attacks, committed by Kashmir independence insurgent group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India's external affairs ministry criticized Pakistan over allegations in WikiLeaks documents posted Sunday that Pakistan's ISI has secretly armed, trained, and financed the Afghan Taliban insurgency since 2004. India's Economics Times reports the WikiLeaks files include reports that the ISI had plotted attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan, including its consulate in Jalalabad, and that the agency offered $15,000 to $30,000 for the assassination of Indian road workers. A suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008 killed 54.
The newspaper quotes a statement from India's foreign ministry:
The utilization of territory under Pakistan’s control to provide sanctuaries for recruiting and sustaining terrorist groups, and to direct terrorist activity against neighbors, must stop if our region is to attain its full potential for peaceful development.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama's top military adviser Mike Mullen also expressed concern about the ISI, saying any links between it and terror outfits were "completely unacceptable," according to a report in RTTNews.
He said that Washington remained concerned about Islamabad's ISI in the wake of disclosures by online whistle-blower Wikileaks that the spy agency was continuing to maintain links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
There are also allegations the ISI has ties with Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, and the Haqqani network, which targets US-led forces in Afghanistan. ...
He told reporters aboard his plane going to Iraq that "any links which exist with terrorist organizations, whether it is Haqqani or LeT, it's just completely unacceptable."
Pakistan has dismissed the allegations. Commentators in Pakistani media have said ISI is being scapegoated, according to a roundup in the New York Times. The Pakistani media "consensus" is that the country is being unfairly criticized, even as its own citizens are victimized by terrorists, and its own soldiers are on the frontlines against insurgents.
In the Pakistani daily Dawn, commentator Mahir Ali noted that many of the allegations against Pakistan's ISI in the Wikileaks files came from Afghan intelligence sources whose credibility had been questioned by both The New York Times and The Guardian, two of the three publications that first received the Wikileaks files.
It does not follow, of course, that the imputations against the ISI are necessarily false. It is certainly possible – even likely – that the more lurid tales about poisoned alcohol supplies and plans to assassinate Hamid Karzai are, if not figments of someone’s imagination, highly exaggerated.
But at the same time there are elements in this context that pass the test of probability and plausibility. Among these is the case of Stephen Kappes, the CIA’s deputy head, confronting the ISI in July 2008 with evidence of its role in a deadly suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Pakistan is interested in having an Islamist-tinged government in Kabul that will be more inclined to a Pakistani sphere of influence and more hostile to their old enemy India, The Christian Science Monitor has reported. Pakistan also wants a compliant regime to ensure its control of its own Pasthun-dominated border areas, which it fears could someday break away to join Afghanistan or become independent.
The Monitor on Monday interviewed former ISI head Hamid Gul, a retired general and former ISI chief who is accused in the WikiLeaks reports of ordering IED attacks against international forces and of plotting to kidnap UN staff to use as hostages in exchange for militant prisoners.
Mr. Gul called the WikiLeaks report “malicious, fictitious, and preposterous.”
He also conducted the following video interview Monday with Al Jazeera, calling himself "a convenient whipping boy."