ISI certainly has links with Taliban, but nature not clear yet: Petraeus

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Washington, June 30 (ANI): The newly appointed US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus has underlined that there is no doubt over Pakistan's Inter State Intelligence (ISI) maintaining links with the Taliban, however, the nature of those links are yet to be ascertained.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee here, General Petraeus said it was difficult to verify whether Pakistan was working with the Taliban or it was merely assisting the extremists to garner information.

"What we have to always figure out with Pakistan is: are they working with the Taliban to support the Taliban or to recruit sources in the Taliban? And that's the difficulty, frankly, in trying to assess what the ISI is doing in some of their activities in Fata, in contacts with the Haqqani network, or the Afghan Taliban," General Petraeus said while replying to Republican Senator John McCain's question.

McCain had asked Petraeus whether he was concerned that the ISI continued to work with the dreaded Haqqani group, an ally of Al Qaeda and other Taliban groups.

"There are no questions about the longstanding lengths. Let's remember that we funded the ISI to build these organisations when they were the Mujahideen and helping to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan," he added.

"And so certainly, residual links would not be a surprise. The question is what the character of those links is and what the activities are behind them," Petraeus said.

When Committee chairman Senator Carl Levin asked Petraeaus whether he was aware about the reported meeting between Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and the Haqqani group leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, the commander said Karzai had vehemently denied meeting any leader of the extremist group.

"In talking to President Karzai in the vehicle on the way over here, he assured me that he has not met a Haqqani group leader, by the way in recent days or, I think, at any time," General Petraeus said.

It may be noted that last Saturday, Al Jazeera had reported that Karzai recently met Sirajuding to discuss a power-sharing agreement.

The meeting was reportedly orchestrated by Pakistani intelligence and army officials, who want the Haqqani network to be included in a new set-up in Afghanistan.

Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Shuja Pasha had accompanied Haqqani to the meeting, the channel had reported.

Commenting on the Afghan reconciliation efforts, General Petraeus said he does not not expect the recent contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan to lead to an immediate reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents.

"Now, whether that is possible, such an agreement, I think is going to depend on a number of factors that will play out over the course of the summer, including creating a sense among the Taliban that they are going to get hammered in the field and perhaps should look at some options," The Dawn quoted General Petraeus, as saying. (ANI)

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