WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI has connections with militant groups and runs its own foreign policy, a top US General said on Wednesday. Pakistan has denied the US’ allegations.
“I think it’s clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing. He was responding to a question from Senator Joe Donnelly.
Donnelly had asked Dunford if he thought the ISI was still helping the Taliban.
Over the past several years, Dunford said, the US has had a bilateral approach to trying to effect a change in Pakistan’s behaviour.
He, however, added he does not think that there is one thing that would change Pakistan’s behaviour.
Dunford hoped that a multilateral approach might help in bringing changes in Pakistan’s behaviour.
The top American general was joined by his Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in slamming the ISI. “We have seen havens left to the terrorists’ own devices. We have seen the government of Pakistan come down on terrorism, while ISI appears to run its own foreign policy,” Mattis said acknowledging for the first time in the public domain that ISI runs its own policy and does not seem to be controlled by the federal government.
The strong statements on ISI and Pakistan from top officials of the Trump Administration came hours before the Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif landed in Washington on a three-day visit. Asif is scheduled to meet the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Security Adviser H R McMaster and address the think-tank community at the US Institute of Peace.
Attending the annual UN General Assembly sessions in New York last week, Asif had slammed the United States for being responsible for the rise of militant groups in Pakistan.
“Don’t blame us for Haqqanis or don’t blame us for Hafiz Saeed. These were the people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people,” he said during his appearance before the Asia Society in New York.
“It is very easy to say that Pakistan is supporting Haqqanis, Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are liabilities…we have said they are liabilities… but give us time to get rid of these liabilities because we do not have the assets to match these liabilities and you are increasing them further,” he said.
Asif has embarked on a three-day visit to the US as part of efforts to rebuild bilateral ties frayed after Trump accused Pakistan of sheltering militant groups.