Greg Miller at The Los Angeles Times reports the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) has “funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan’s intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks” to pay “for the capture or killing of wanted militants”, despite the known fact Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) “continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to al-Qa’ida members in Pakistan”. The relationship which began with the C.I.A. using the I.S.I. to funnel money to the mujahideen against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan about 30 years ago that “created the Taliban“, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari conceded in May.
16 Nov 09 | Indo-Asian News Service
The C.I.A. has paid millions of dollars to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) since 9/11, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency’s annual budget, says a media report.
The I.S.I. also collected “tens of millions of dollars through a classified C.I.A. programme”, which pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday citing current and former U.S. officials.
An intense debate has been triggered within the U.S. government due to “long-standing suspicions that the I.S.I. continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to al-Qa’ida members in Pakistan”.
But U.S. officials have continued to make the payments as I.S.I.’s assistance is considered critical: “Almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan’s tribal belt, where I.S.I. informant networks are a primary source of intelligence.”
The report went on to say that the payments to Pakistan are authorised under a covert programme initially approved by then president Bush and continued under President Obama.
“The I.S.I. has used the covert C.I.A. money for a variety of purposes, including the construction of a new headquarters in Islamabad, the capital. That project pleased C.I.A. officials because it replaced a structure considered vulnerable to attack; it also eased fears that the U.S. money would end up in the private bank accounts of I.S.I. officials.”
“What we didn’t want to happen was for this group of generals in power at the time to just start putting it in their pockets or building mansions in Dubai,” a former CIA operative was quoted as saying.
C.I.A. officials argue that their own disbursements—particularly the bounties for suspected terrorists—should be considered a bargain.
“They gave us 600 to 700 people captured or dead,” a former senior C.I.A. official, who worked with the Pakistanis, was quoted as saying.
“Getting these guys off the street was a good thing, and it was a big savings to (U.S.) taxpayers.”
Another U.S. intelligence official said Pakistan had made “decisive contributions to counter-terrorism”.
“They have people dying almost every day,” the official said. “Sure, their interests don’t always match up with ours. But things would be one hell of a lot worse if the government there was hostile to us.”
The I.S.I. is a highly compartmentalised intelligence service, with divisions that sometimes seem at odds with one another. Units that work closely with the C.I.A. are walled off from a highly secretive branch that has directed insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir, The Los Angeles Times report said.
“There really are two I.S.I.’s,” the former C.I.A. operative said.
“On the counter-terrorism side, those guys were in lock-step with us,” the former operative said. “And then there was the ‘long-beard’ side. Those are the ones who created the Taliban and are supporting groups like Haqqani.”
The network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani has been accused of carrying out a series of suicide attacks in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
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