During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, highlighted the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency’s role in sponsoring the Haqqani Network – including attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.
“The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity,” Mullen said in his written testimony. “Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers.”
Mullen continued: “For example, we believe the Haqqani Network–which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency–is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.”
“There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were US soldiers,” Mullen continued.
During his oral testimony, Mullen reportedly reiterated his concerns about the ISI’s role in sponsoring Haqqani Network attacks.
“With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted (a Sept. 10) truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy,” Mullen said, according to Reuters. “We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28 attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”
The Sept. 13 attack on the US Embassy in Kabul was part of a lengthy siege on Western targets, including the NATO headquarters. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, which used both suicide bombers and rocket-propelled grenades. [See LWJ report, Taliban launch complex attack on US embassy in Kabul.]
Afghan officials previously released audio of intercepted conversations between the terrorists responsible for the June 28 attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel and their Haqqani handlers in Pakistan. In an intercepted phone call, Badruddin Haqqani, a top leader of the terror network, is heard directing one of the fighters and laughing during the attack that killed 11 civilians and two Afghan policemen, as well as nine members of the attack team. [See LWJ report, Haqqani Network directed Kabul assault by phone from Pakistan.]
The ISI’s sponsorship of terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan and elsewhere has long been known to US intelligence officials.
For instance, according to a leaked State Department cable dated Dec. 5, 2008, a senior US intelligence official briefed NATO representatives on the ISI’s dirty work. The ISI “provides intelligence and financial support to insurgent groups – especially the Jalaluddin Haqqani network out of Miram Shah, North Waziristan – to conduct attacks in Afghanistan against Afghan government, ISAF, and Indian targets,” Dr. Peter Lavoy, who was then the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia, told his NATO counterparts.
Years later, Pakistan’s duplicity in this long war is still a major problem. While recognizing that progress has been made in Afghanistan, Mullen cautioned that Pakistan’s sponsorship of the insurgency may jeopardize the mission.
“History teaches us that it is difficult to defeat an insurgency when fighters enjoy a sanctuary outside national boundaries, and we are seeing this again today,” Mullen said in his written testimony. “The actions by the Pakistani government to support
[the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani Network] –actively and passively–represent a growing problem that is undermining U.S. interests and may violate international norms, potentially warranting sanction.”
Mullen continues: “In supporting these groups, the government of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistani Army, continues to jeopardize Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected and prosperous nation with genuine regional and international influence.”
Mullen argues, however, that now is not the time “to disengage from Pakistan” but instead, 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, America should “reframe our relationship.”
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.