Pakistan’s intelligence service ‘has connections with terrorist groups’

During a hearing yesterday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continues to support terrorist groups. Despite this announcement, Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis remain hopeful that the US can rein in the rogue nation.

Mattis and Dunford placed all of the blame for Pakistan’s support of terrorist groups on the ISI, and essentially absolved Pakistan’s government and the military of any responsibility for both incubating and supporting regional and global jihadist organizations.

When asked if “the ISI is still helping the Taliban,” Dunford responded that “it’s clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups.”

Mattis also noted Pakistan’s complicity with terrorist attacks in South Asia.

“Pakistan has a convoluted history with terrorism. There can be little doubt that there have been terrorist groups that have used Pakistan as a haven for attacks outwardly, and not just towards Afghanistan. We’ve seen the attacks on India, as well,” Mattis stated.

Later on, Mattis said that the “ISI appears to run its own foreign policy.”

Mattis and Dunford went out of their way to praise the Pakistani military and government for “fighting terrorists,” but they failed to explain that the Pakistani state only battles jihadists groups that threaten it, such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. These groups are referred to as “bad Taliban,” as they attack the Pakistani state.

While the ISI is a driving force in devising and executing Pakistan’s policy of supporting terrorist outfits such as the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, and other groups, the government and the military support these efforts. The ISI is, after all, an arm of Pakistan’s military. Yet the military and government cannot or will not rein it in.  These groups, which are referred to as “good Taliban,” are used by the Pakistani state to execute its foreign policy goals of weakening India’s control of Kashmir and Jammu, and establishing a pro-Pakistan Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Despite Pakistan’s decades-long support of jihadist outfits in South Asia, Mattis and Dunford stressed that a diplomatic approach would be the prime vehicle used to attempt to ween the country from its policy of supporting terrorists. Dunford praised General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, the country’s most powerful military leader, for recently engaging Afghan leaders in Kabul.

“We were encouraged, just this week, with General Bajwa’s visit to Afghanistan,” Dunford stated. “He was in Kabul the day before yesterday. He had very good meetings with Afghan leadership. Our leadership was engaged in those meetings as well. There’s at least a commitment, now, to address those issues and do better coordination along the border area.”

However, over the years, there have been numerous visits to Kabul by Pakistani military leaders and government officials. These visits have not borne any fruit, and in fact the Taliban is stronger today in Afghanistan than any point since the US invasion in the fall of 2001. The group controls or contests an estimated 45 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, according to a study by FDD’s Long War Journal.

If Pakistan is serious about showing good faith in fighting terrorism and stabilizing South Asia, it should start by arresting the Taliban’s leadership, and closing the training camps, madrassas, recruiting centers, financial hubs, and other support networks that are based within its border.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Kenny says:

    This article is an insult to common knowledge. Since when has it become recent news that the Pakistani ISI has connections with Terrorist groups? Seriously. It is common and blatantly obvious knowledge that the ISI is the sole reason to how the Taliban went from being a street gang in Kandahar to being a fully militarized fighting force capable of almost conquering all of Afghanistan in the late 90s.

  • Robert Marlowe says:

    Nothing new in this report.
    Need to see some results.

  • Michael says:

    The job of someone like Mattis is not to publically describe situations as accurately as possible, but rather to describe situations in a way that garners positive results. Criticizing all elements of Pakistani society is unlikely to create positive change. Putting the focus on ISI gives a little bit of cover to sincere anti-terrorists in the military and the government. Yes, they are in the minority even there, but it’s better to enlist their support than to antagonize them.

  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    “If Pakistan is serious about showing good faith in fighting terrorism and stabilizing South Asia…”

    Therein lies the rub, and the quandary. I’m afraid that things have gone too far for anything to get better. Abdul Sattar Edhi is dead, and no one gives a damn about what Jinnah actually did during that first, and his last, year. Pakistan is hundreds of lawyers throwing rose petals at Salmaan Taseer’s murderer, and a news media too cowardly to do anything more than bleat about it.

    And in its own way, India is no better off.

  • Jason Martin says:

    Ah the game continues, US policy willl never change. Why is this even “news”? It has been a known fact for decades.

  • Najibullah says:

    I as a Afghan know this all from the day I understood the world that Pakistan’s government is responsible for all innocent deaths in the region and their dirty politics by ISI , Baluchistan and Durand line is the main issue . I think they should change their political ideology and get lesson from Spain and Catalonia.

  • Robert Bentley says:

    Aw, nuts. The last two administrations tried the “bad ISI” ploy without success. It didn’t work for them and it won’t work now. Better to face the grim reality of a double-dealing, hostile Pakistani state focused on using Islamic militancy in their endless war against India than to perpetuate this pretense that Pakistan’s leaders–military especially–somehow don’t direct the ISI.

    Pro-tip: There is no such thing as a rogue intelligence agency.

  • David W. says:

    There is not much mention of China’s hand in backing, funding and providing weapons to these groups through the ISI. Pakistan’s “all weather friend” is encouraging Pakistan to play a hugely duplicitous role, prolonging the need for US involvement in Afghanistan, bleeding us, and spending our treasure. Now, with alleged Russian support pouring in from the north, and Iranian active support and training of militants along its border, plus Pakistan encouraging the Taliban from the east, the US is in a difficult position, especially logistically.

  • Arjuna says:

    Not only are terrorists good for the ISI to ally with to keep AFG weak and unstable, but they get used against India too. Only problem is when they go rogue TTP, etc
    Pakistan is a snake charmer and the snakes are “banned” groups.
    It’d be fun to watch if it wasn’t so… deadly.
    PS We’re guilty too. We played good jihadi-bad jihadi in Syria and lost.

  • KW64 says:

    None of the three nations that control Afghanistan’s supply lines support the current government there. Its allies or potential allies, the US and India have a logistical nightmare to overcome to supply it if its three neighboring countries cut those supply lines. Thus, we are stuck working with Russia and Pakistan even though they support the Taliban we are fighting.

  • Devendra Sood says:

    Pakistan will NOT desist untill hit hard by a two-by-four upside the head. It’s a snake and all it knows to bite. PAKISTAN REALLY IS TERRORISTAN.

  • Arjuna says:

    My two-by-four is a permanent arms embargo by Russia, China and America.
    Let’s see how they do without resupply and spare parts.
    But we would need skilled diplomats and common sense for that.
    What’s yours? Nuke Islamisbad?

  • Steve Silverman says:

    Agree with Arguna but also, while loving America, I wonder if we like others refuse to be transparent with our relationships with foreign governments and political groups ?

  • irebukeu says:

    Well said and spot on.

  • irebukeu says:

    I always thought it interesting how people wanted hard ball played with Pakistan while 100,000 Americans sat isolated in the high mountains of the near east.
    There is a quote from Nikita Khrushchev ‘Berlin is the testicle of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin’.

  • Jessie Michibata says:

    ……as the world turns……..

    So what else is new? The US is being bled dry, our government know this, and still want to play the nation-building game.


  • Robert Bentley says:

    That is a fabulous quote. I think this whole discussion highlights the inherent weakness of our strategic position there. Makes you wonder whether we should be there at all.

  • Saqib zafar says:

    Which intelligence agency in the world doesn’t penetrate its targets ? Blaming ISI for links with terrorists is just a strategic coercion of an already helping hand. RAW, Mosssd, NDS, CIA all have covert/ clandedtine links with their targets. It’s not called collusion . It’s called penetration.
    If Someone is not good at it’s work … they must address the weakness instead of criticizing their contemporary of an upper hand at the clandestine plane.
    Ironically, the US remains indifferent to the nation’s national intetrst petspective and is playing a bully at best.
    Punch Line…. When You are done with the bullying tactics, let the ISI know…. maybe then some steps could be taken forward in the right direction.


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