Backgrounder: The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations
Council on Foreign Relations
Authors: Eben Kaplan, Associate Editor
Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer
Updated: November 27, 2008
Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has long faced accusations of meddling in the affairs of its neighbors. A range of officials inside and outside Pakistan have stepped up suggestions of links between the ISI and terrorist groups in recent years. In autumn 2006, a leaked report by a British Defense Ministry think tank charged, "Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism—whether in London on 7/7, or in Afghanistan, or Iraq." In June 2008, Afghan officials accused Pakistan's intelligence service of plotting a failed assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai; shortly thereafter, they implied the ISI's involvement in a July 2008 attack on the Indian embassy. Indian officials also blamed the ISI for the bombing of the Indian embassy. Pakistani officials have denied such a connection. In an October 2006 interview, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said some retired ISI operatives could be abetting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, but he denied any active links. Pakistan's government has repeatedly denied allegations of supporting terrorism, citing as evidence its cooperation in the "war on terror," in which it has taken significant losses both politically and on the battlefield.
"The ISI probably would not define what they've done in the past as 'terrorism,'" says William Milam, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. Nevertheless, experts say the ISI has supported a number of militant groups in the disputed Kashmir region between Pakistan and India, some of which are on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. While Pakistan has a formidable military presence near the Indian border, some experts believe the relationship between the military and some Kashmiri groups has greatly changed with the rise of militancy within Pakistan.
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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.
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