WikiLeaks: ISI charged but not convicted

Published: August 4, 2010
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a press conference in London. He has defended his decision to make the Afghan war logs public. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a press conference in London. He has defended his decision to make the Afghan war logs public. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

After years of denial that the ISI is involved in Afghanistan’s insurgency, the reports published by WikiLeaks have shed new light on the agency’s alleged activities.

The role of the ISI

The WikiLeaks reports have numerous mentions of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The intelligence reports filed by the US military are based on data from informants, Afghan intelligence and government representatives. They include allegations that the ISI was providing logistical and financial support to the Afghan Taliban and other insurgents, as well as training. The reports cite that the ISI had “ordered Taliban and other Islamic party members to kidnap foreign citizens from within Afghanistan”, especially “India nationals” and that the ISI had facilitated the passage of bomb-making material to Afghanistan, specifically for an attack that ended up targeting then US Vice President Dick Cheney on February 27, 2007.

The reports claim that as recently as April 2009, the ISI was providing training for and funding the placement of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in Afghanistan. IED attacks grew exponentially in Afghanistan from 2004-2010, and according to the Washington Post, “account for nearly two-thirds of Nato’s troop fatalities in the nearly nine-year long war”. The ISI was also allegedly involved on a strategic level, as one of the reports claims that it was “trying to bring insurgent leaders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar together” in 2007.

The ISI, Foreign Office and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani have dismissed the reports. After the allegations were published, Associated Press reported: “A senior ISI official denied the allegations, saying they were from raw intelligence reports that had not been verified and were meant to impugn the reputation of the spy agency. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the agency’s policy.”

The allegations

While some of the mentions of the ISI in the reports come from complaints by government officials, others pinpoint to what critics have long claimed are part of the agency’s strategic aims. Reports that the ISI backed individuals who attacked the Indian consulate in Jalalabad and that it ordered Sirajuddin Haqqani to kill Indians are part of a larger series of allegations against the ISI.

In a report dated March 22, 2008, the ISI is alleged to have offered Haqqani $15,000 to $30,000 per Indian worker in Afghanistan it killed. Specific reference was made in the report to targeting Indians in Nimruz province. In April, two Indian engineers were killed in Nimruz province while another Indian was killed in June.

The ISI’s order of ‘foreign kidnappings’ in 2007 was followed by at least 32 foreigners being kidnapped within the next six months, including a group of South Korean missionaries

The key element to the reports are the ‘strategic’ involvement, such as the ISI’s dealings with Sirajuddin Haqqani, Mullah Mohammad Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, relationships that experts say have dated back for decades.

The director-general of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS) claims, for example, that the NDS gave “Hekmatyar’s last known address to ISI, but they did not action it and he expects them to facilitate Hekmatyar’s move to another location.”

Room for doubt

These reports and statements seem to provide compelling evidence that the ISI has been materially supporting the Afghan Taliban. But there is some room for doubt.

A report from Spain’s Defence Ministry was leaked in October 2008 stating that the ISI was arming Taliban insurgents to assassinate Afghan government officials in 2005. However, in 2005 the only assassination was that of Akhtar Mohammad Toowak, a candidate for parliament.

Other claims also sound hollow, such as one by the ‘Intelligence Department’ that Taliban leaders Mullah Obaidullah Akhund and Amir Khan Haqqani had been ‘released by the ISI’ in March 2007, when they were in fact released in November as part of a prisoner-exchange deal. Others make little to no sense, such as the ‘Pakistani Government’ is cited to have paid al Qaeda members Rs30,000 to kill a school director, an amount that is paltry considering the payments suicide bombers generally receive, and that there is no agency or group mentioned that ordered this hit.

Other reports mention an active Taliban commander who is backed by the ISI, while the same commander is reported by other informants to have been arrested by the Pakistan government.

‘Who contols the ISI?’

While the release of the WikiLeaks reports engendered fresh media scrutiny of the ISI’s possible double role in the Afghan war, Western governments have been voicing concerns, both publicly and privately, for many years.

In September 2006, a research paper written by an intelligence official for the British Ministry of Defence was leaked to the media. It accused the ISI of “indirectly supporting terrorism and extremism”. In July 2008, then Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Stephen Kappes and then Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen came to Pakistan to present the government with evidence that the ISI was linked to militants carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

The most dramatic accusation against the ISI came on August 1, 2008 from US President George W Bush who asked, “Who controls the ISI?” He went on say it was impossible to share intelligence with Pakistan “because it goes straight to the terrorists.” Intelligence, according to Bush, could not be provided to Pakistan “because certain elements of the ISI are leaking information to the terrorists before they could be hit by the US or Pakistani forces”.

The double game

The question that needs to be asked is why, if the US and other Western countries have been suspicious of the ISI for years and have been receiving the raw data that was released by WikiLeaks, do they continue to mostly turn a blind eye to its activities.

Yet another questionable fact is whether the allegations attributed to the ISI could be the work of the parallel organisation that was reportedly created to avoid the attention of Western governments, which Ahmed Rashid wrote about in his 2008 book Descent into Chaos. According to Rashid, “Running a two-track policy was proving to be an institutional difficulty for the ISI, a difficulty that was resolved with the creation of a new clandestine organisation that would operate outside the military and intelligence structure, in the civilian sphere. Former ISI trainers of the Taliban, retired Pashtun officers from the army and especially the Frontier Corps, were rehired on contract. They set up offices in private houses in Peshawar, Quetta and other cities and maintained no links with the local ISI station chief or the army.” Equally curious is the strong support the US has lent to Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, given that he headed the ISI during most of the period covered by the WikiLeaks reports. Reportedly, one of the reasons for the three-year extension recently granted to Kayani is the rapport he enjoys with US soldiers. However, the WikiLeaks reports have highlighted the army and the ISI’s role once again, indicating that Kayani’s next three years as COAS have started on a note of suspicion.

The role of other intelligence agencies in Afghanistan may also be of concern to the ISI. In a 2006 interview, Pakistan Muslim League (Q) leader Mushahid Hussain alleged that India’s Research and Analysis Wing “has established its training camps in Afghanistan in collaboration with the Northern Alliance remnants”. This April, the Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said, “Why is the US listening to India more in Afghanistan? Frequent events do suggest a rise in foreign activities inside both [Pakistan and Afghanistan]. The ISI is working to counter these activities, but the US can do more to remove those irritants by listening more to us.”

While an anti-Pakistan bias can be detected from some of the reports – particularly in complaints from Afghan officials – and can be discounted on that basis, the serious allegations levelled against the ISI, that is widely described as ‘a state within a state’ should be cause for concern for the civilian government that has consistently been under pressure to ‘rein in the ISI’.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • S. Ali Raza
    Aug 4, 2010 - 1:58AM

    The Indian have taken the Americans for a ride. How idiotic of the Yankees to have initially allowed India to Afghanistan and now depending on their sponsored intelligence disinformation. Recommend

  • abid
    Aug 4, 2010 - 2:13AM

    What really scares me

    According to Rashid, “Running a two-track policy was proving to be an institutional difficulty for the ISI, a difficulty that was resolved with the creation of a new clandestine organisation that would operate outside the military and intelligence structure, in the civilian sphere. Former ISI trainers of the Taliban, retired Pashtun officers from the army and especially the Frontier Corps, were rehired on contract. They set up offices in private houses in Peshawar, Quetta and other cities and maintained no links with the local ISI station chief or the army.”

    and they definitely have contacts within the serving soldiers as wellRecommend

  • Listening Post
    Aug 4, 2010 - 2:24AM

    This is a very confused report. Some of the details about where the ISI is mentioned in the wikileaked reports is useful but scantily treated. You should’ve compared what the wiki reports say about the bombing of the Indian embassy in Jalalabad and the bomb targeting Cheney with what has been publically reported about these incidents. The western reports publically citing ISI involvement in Af appear cherry picked. You ask why western govts “continue to turn a blind eye” to ISI activities… try answering this question yourselves… maybe they have no choice seeing their dependence on Pak for supplies lines??? Citing Ahmed Rashid’s book is hardly anything new, and Mushahid Hussain is hardly a newsworthy individual in this context! Where has it been reported that Kayani’s extension is because of the “rapport he enjoys with US soldiers?” Very amateur work!!!Recommend

  • Parvez
    Aug 4, 2010 - 4:02AM

    CIA and RAW would never do anything like this. They are pure as fresh snow. Let’s all fess up.Recommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Aug 4, 2010 - 7:05AM

    Wikileaks founder Assange has been played perfectly by the Western powers who wanted to dilute the effect of these leaks. After all, other than the role of ISI these documents seem to be packed with material that showed NATO/US forces complicity in war crimes and plain revenge attacks and the disgusting corruption of the Karzai government. With 99% of the Western press writing about the role of ISI the mention of the more damaging material is nowhere to be found. Perfect play by the spin masters in Washington and London. The Western corporate media obviously went along as they have been since 9/11, recycling old stories about ISI involvement while completely ignoring the much more serious issues of war crimes and corruption. The Western media outlets have lost all credibility.Recommend

  • ahmed
    Aug 4, 2010 - 9:53AM

    If this really is what the ISI is upto in order to protect Pakistan and its borders and people….I wonder what the Indians are doing to try and destabilize us…Recommend

  • Ibraheem
    Aug 4, 2010 - 9:57AM

    So selfish repost ISI is one of the awesome intelligence agency in the world. We proud on ISI and ISI does every thing which is in interest of Pakistan not in America or other country. Because ISI is the agency of Pakistan…Shame on America and other countries. We are with ISI…Recommend

  • Aug 4, 2010 - 11:38AM

    two questions:

    1: which govt agency (anywhere in the world) does not double-deal and double dip?

    2: wrt ISI – where does the buck finally stops?Recommend

  • viren naik
    Aug 4, 2010 - 12:42PM

    Gordon Brown was one of the targets when he visited Kabul.
    His helicoper was targeted by a heat seeking missile.
    They missed him by a whisker and the intellegence was available that Kayani was the main plotter.
    David Milliband coming from a marxist background forgot his roots and started lecturing the Foreign Minister of India on the Indian soil.Do you think he would have ever be welcomed in Delhi should he become the Prime Minister of UK?.
    Yes! India will still welcome him with open arms simply because it is a friendship between the people of two countries and not the leaders.
    David Cameron has the legitimate right to say to Pakistanis to stop playing the duplicious game because the soldiers of his own countries are the victims.
    Barak Obama was supposed to bring the new change to the world and with the support of David Cameron he will there is no doubt about it.
    The slowly building chorous of exposure of ISI ala Ashfaq Kayani
    will continue to gather momentum until Barak will decide to pull the Ace of Cards to bring the curtains down on this saga.
    International propoganda is not a new tool ask any marketing expert and he will tell you what kind of campaign it takes to build a brand image of the adverse kind.
    There is going to be no let up in Brandishing Kayani and his ISI
    as the devils brigade with sinister aim of eliminating Shias from Pakistani soil which is indeed the truth.
    One does not need UN sanctions to do that Wikileaks like exposures are enough provided it is constant and resolute with a true mission
    to bring peace to the troubled lands sorrounding Afghanistan.
    Obama the world now awaits your next move of the 16 future moves.
    Regards and God Bless
    Viren NaikRecommend

  • sultan
    Aug 4, 2010 - 12:49PM

    Very informative article and comments we should also add that if ISI is doing some duty in the supreme national interest we stand by our institutions may it be Judiciary, Army or HEC and very well done ISI Chief for declining to visit UKRecommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Aug 4, 2010 - 1:13PM

    West is venting its desperation at Pakistan after seeing the defeat at the hands of ill equipped, ill fed, illiterate, talabans. They want to out source the War to Pakistan.
    Pakistan is already destroyed at the hands of Talabans and its corrupt bueacracy and stupid politicians.
    Lets pray for the departed soul!!!!Recommend

  • Farukh Sarwar
    Aug 4, 2010 - 1:30PM

    It is important to realize that these reports have little or no significance, both for the US and Pakistan. These reports are mostly outdated and that’s the reason why both the US and Pakistani government didn’t take any serious notice of these leaks.Recommend

  • KM
    Aug 4, 2010 - 2:17PM

    Wondering if we could have any Wikileaks on Mossad, and their plans to continuously malign the ISI, through CIA and RAW. Any wikileaks on the Balochistan movements, and their offices registered in Israel. Why is Brahadagh Bugti given an Indian passport? What love does India have for him all of sudden? Why is the BLA or the BLF registered in Israel? Why the Mehsub found visiting India as the state guest? Interestingly if we try to resolve a regional issue beyond anyones scope, we become the blood sucking ISI, but all is well if there are all sorts of anti state movements going on, by those sponsored by India and Israel. WE STAND BY OUR OWN INTERESTS, AND SO WE WILL.Recommend

  • M. Kamran Khan
    Aug 4, 2010 - 2:19PM

    Reality is this the war which America and Nato are fighting in Afghanistan,in this war they totally facing
    defeat.And now they want to make responsible ISI for this defeat.We Pakistani want to tell the world that in every circumstances we supports Pakistan Army,Independent Judiciary and as well as HEC.Because these all institutions taking these serious steps for national interest.One thing i want mention here that India must realize the fact that it can’t do anything in Afghanistan against Pakistan.Recommend

  • Aug 4, 2010 - 2:24PM

    What we need to know is where did this person surfaced from and where did he get this information. Setting a website then putting the material which according to collation partners think is detrimental to security of their personnale requires questioning. What is the source of information of this previously unknown person
    where was he before and what is his qaulification visa vi security and war on terror and how come a website containing material detremental for NATO HAS NOT BEEN BANNED YET.

    What we do is go defensive wihout questining the credibility of the source. So i actually want to know more about this person who was incoherent, confused not very sure and stammered also during his press conference as if it was his first assignment. I hopw and wish he is not another Zaid zaman!If you look at his photograph he seems to have a profile and needs more probing as to who is Julian after allRecommend

  • Aug 4, 2010 - 5:11PM

    ISI Involvement in Afghanistan is just an “ARGUMENT”
    Blaming on ISI and Pak Army is the part of UNDERCOVER game played by CIA, RAW and MOSAD.
    America is facing tough resistance in Afghanistan, Therefore they want some argument.Recommend

  • Fayyaz Muhammad Mian
    Aug 4, 2010 - 5:37PM

    The wikileaks are pro raw and pro Mossad propaganda against ISI and the Pakistan’s front line state’s role in ‘War against terror’. The so called allegations levelled against the ‘spy agency’ reflect ‘the chivaleresque defeatism of all the countries behind these fake documents and reports. Unlike Iraq (rich in Petroleum and other natural resources) where the allied forces attacked on fake information, Afghanistan, rich in minerals, seems to disinterest them for they are looking for a face saving outlet. These reports are all fake, biased and aim at maligning Pakistan’s increasing credibilty to counter the Taliban phenomenon. And all the credit goes to general Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who planned their flush. As far as India is concerned, she is pakistan-paranoia. Anything that happens anywhere in the world, the indians dream a Pakistan role in it. Same is the case with the Americans and western nations. Does any body monitor Raw and Mossad’s accounts and publish them. It’s ISI which helped the Americans. They could not have defeated the Russians armies without ISI’s backing. Now they are trapped in an endless war they have started the blame game. Poor proves! Poor blame gamers!Recommend

  • ali
    Aug 4, 2010 - 7:02PM

    these are same old media war tactics used by cia/mosad, they have failed to capture afghanistan with all massive resources, they have failed to attain what they were thinking of by using self defined and self planned war on terrorism, they just want to make ISI responsible for all their failures, coz they have to answer their people what they gain and lost in this war, war on terrorism is just a way to capture resources in afghanistan and keep an eye on pakistan plus china, and back india to obtain its targets in pakistan,

    However i must appreciate ISI , we have each and every right in this world to save our country doen’t matters what we do, doesnt matters we back taliban or not, we should do it as afghan taliban are friends of pakistan they never cause harm to pakistan, only those pakistani talibans backed by mosad, raw and cia ve done damage to pakistan, We stand by policis of ISI. This is our region all nato forces, usa, uk forces should get their ass out of our land,

    Long live pakistan
    Long Live ISIRecommend

  • uzair tahir
    Aug 4, 2010 - 11:56PM

    ISI is doing exactly what it is supposed to do and exactly for what it was made for Recommend

  • Bangash
    Aug 5, 2010 - 10:14PM

    The wikileaks document is garbage about ISI as it offers no specific proofs, just stories with anonymous sources and anonymous participants. The real damage from Wikileaks is to the US govt, as the documents do contain names of agents, informers and allies working for US govt, all of whom lives are now in danger. Additionally foreign govt will now be reluctant to share their data with US since it might get leaked and show up at Wikileaks.Recommend

  • Naqvi
    Aug 6, 2010 - 1:20AM

    WikiLeaks according to me is just a farce. These prospects have no credibility of the source, heck they don’t even let the source out. And Julian, a nobody from yesterday suddenly comes up with all these sensitive documents which of all places were retrieved from the MOST SECURE ARCHIVES in the world. This does not make sense at all.
    Thoughts to ponder:
    1. Julian has no history. He just pops out of nowhere
    2. If somebody had leaked this amount of sensitive information, the effectee’s (be it informants, spies or even organization) would be after him like wild dogs and he would be hiding in some city sewer, yet hes out in the open. (P.S. if he weren’t actually backed by some powerful organization without a motive, he wouldn’t reveal his true identity at all, otherwise he would’ve been just a sitting duck)
    3. Credibility is a MAJOR ISSUE
    4. Why isn’t the US or any of its related agencies apprehending him for allegedly ousting state secrets.
    5. why isn’t his website been attacked and blocked/banned or crush by cyber intelligence.
    6. Its “WIKI” Leaks, so we know how much misleading and how much it is.
    There are a whole lot ot arguments. this will suffice for now.Recommend

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