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'ISI agents have ethnic and cultural ties with Taliban'

Written by: Staff

Washington, Nov 10: Pakistan"s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents have ethnic and cultural ties with Afghan insurgents, and naturally sympathise with them, according to an analysis.

The analysis by Eben Kaplan, associate editor, Council on Foreign Relations, points out that the experts generally suspect Pakistan still provides some support to the Taliban, though probably not to the extent it did in the past.

"If they"re giving them support, its access back and forth (to Afghanistan) and the ability to find safe haven," Kaplan quoted a veteran journalist, as saying.

The analysis says, quoting experts that President Pervez Musharraf exercises firm control over his intelligence agency.

His admission that retired ISI agents might be helping Taliban fighters suggests that his government know of at least some unsanctioned Pakistani support for the Afghan insurgency.

Experts note that Musharraf"s acknowledgement also gives him plausible deniability of any sanctioned assistance Pakistan might also be providing.

Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute is of the view that Pakistan has sent "retired" ISI agents on missions the government could not officially endorse.

Though Pakistan has effectively fought al-Qaeda, Weinbaum says, it has largely ignored Taliban fighters on its soil.

"There are extremist groups that are beyond the pale with which the ISI has no influence at all," the Daily Times quoted Weinbaum, as sayig.

"Those are the ones they go after. Pakistan has two policies. One is an official policy of promoting stability in Afghanistan; the other is an unofficial policy of supporting jihadis in order to appease political forces within Pakistan. The second (policy) undermines the first one," he says.

"With a reported staff of 10,000, ISI is hardly monolithic. Like in any secret service, there are rogue elements," says Frederic Grare, a South Asia expert and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Kaplan quotes former US Ambassador to Pakistan William Milam as saying, "I do not accept the thesis that the ISI is a rogue organisation."

"It"s a disciplined army unit that does what it"s told, though it may push the envelope sometimes," Milam says.


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