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Did ISI have a hand in attack on CIA base?

A US strategic think tank has discounted "widespread rumours in the United States" that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had a hand in the December 30 attack in Khost, Afghanistan that killed several CIA agents.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2010 12:24 IST

A US strategic think tank has discounted "widespread rumours in the United States" that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had a hand in the December 30 attack in Khost, Afghanistan that killed several CIA agents. The possibility that jihadist sympathisers in the lower ranks of the Pakistani intelligence complex may have offered their services to the Taliban cannot be ruled out, the think tank said.

While luck played a definite role in the attack, the skill in preparing the double agent who detonated the suicide bomb used in the attack has led some to see a state role, says Stratfor that styles itself as the global intelligence company.

"Such a role is unlikely, however, as Pakistan has little to gain by enraging the United States. Even so, the rumours alone will harm US-Pakistani relations, perhaps giving the Taliban some breathing room," it said.

"Concerns similar to those in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attack - that the situation in Pakistan has reached a point where the state no longer has control over its own security apparatus and now represents an intolerable threat to US national security - will emerge again," Stratfor suggested.

"While the situation in Islamabad might not be dire, a US-Pakistani and Indian-Pakistani breakdown is exactly what that the jihadists want so they can survive the US and Pakistani offensives they currently face," it said.

Much of the speculation about the possible role played by ISI in the suicide attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman traces back to a report citing unnamed US and Afghan government sources as saying a chemical analysis of explosive residue suggesting the use of military-grade equipment points to ISI involvement in the incident.

"This is a faulty basis to establish an ISI link, as the Pakistani Taliban have used military-grade explosives in numerous attacks against the Pakistani security establishment since late 2006," Stratfor said.

To a large extent, chance aided the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in carrying out the attack, Stratfor said adding, "That said, the preparation of the double agent for the attack showed definite skill."

"While it has shown a great degree of skill in pulling off attacks against major army, intelligence and other security installations in Pakistan, the TTP previously has not been seen as being capable of handling a foreign double agent for a complex operation outside Pakistan," the think tank noted.

However, even this does not mean the ISI was involved in the attack, it said noting, "The ISI falls under the control of the Pakistani army and the government, and the Pakistani state has no interest in carrying out actions against the United States, as this could seriously threaten Pakistani national interests."

Given its history of dealing with Islamist nonstate proxies, the Pakistani intelligence apparatus is penetrated by the jihadists, which partially explains the ability of the TTP to mount a ferocious insurgency against the state, Stratfor said.