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Homeland Security

The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Eben Kaplan, Associate Editor

Updated: October 19, 2007


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 India, Mumbai’s police chief has claimed to have proof that the ISI planned the July 2006 bombing of the Indian city’s commuter rail system, which was carried out by the Kashmir-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. After massive bombings marred former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s October 2007 return to Pakistan, some of her supporters blamed the ISI; Bhutto herself called for the sacking of the country’s intelligence chief.

In a September 2006 BBC interview, President Pervez Musharraf underscored the importance of his nation’s role: “Remember my words: if the ISI is not with you and Pakistan is not with you, you will lose in Afghanistan.” In a later appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Musharraf acknowledged some retired ISI operatives could be abetting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. But Pakistan’s government denies allegations of supporting terrorism, citing as evidence its cooperation in the “war on terror,” in which it has taken significant losses, politically and on the battlefield.

Does ISI support terrorists?

“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.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 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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