Reform ISI, shift focus from India to terrorism: US to Pakistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS,
Washington : The US wants Pakistan to reform its notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, shift its focus from India to Afghanistan and train its troops in counter-insurgency to meet the terrorist threat at home.

Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani “recognises that he has an extremist threat in Pakistan”, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with PBS broadcast late Thursday.

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“They’ve lost many, many citizens. And, in fact, if you look at the suicide bombings which have occurred over the last year or so, they’ve actually moved towards – and a couple of them have actually occurred in Islamabad.

“So he recognizes there’s a serious extremist terrorist threat inside his country,” Mullen said when asked how he would get Kayani to use his military forces not in anticipation of conflict with India, but more in pursuit of forces that want to destabilise Pakistan.

“Clearly, the Mumbai attacks in India put him in a position where he had to focus more on the Indian border, and he has,” he said adding, “I mean, he’s a chief who’s got threats coming from both directions.”

But giving “a lot of credit” to former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mullen said “they actually de-tensioned that border during President Musharraf’s time, and in fact the tourism started to flourish, there was trade which started to flourish across that border.

“And all that got suspended with the Mumbai attacks,” he noted. “So General Kayani knows what he has to do. He needs to move more troops to the west and he needs to train them in counterinsurgency.”

Kayani “certainly is aware of the concerns that I have with respect to his intelligence agency, ISI”, Mullen said.

“They have been very attached to many of these extremist organizations,” he said warning that “in the long run, they have got to completely cut ties with those in order to really move in the right direction”.

“ISI fundamentally has to change its strategic approach, which has been clear to focus on India as well as Afghanistan,” Mullen said. “And I don’t believe they can make a lot of progress until that actually occurs.”

Kayani, he said, had appointed in Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, “one of his best guys”, as the new director of ISI. “I’m encouraged with his views and I’m encouraged with how he sees the problem.”

But “it’s going to take some time to get at it inside ISI”.