A top American military commander headed for Afghanistan has said he would not be surprised by links between Pakistan's spy agency ISI and Islamist extremist organisations, who have established a safe haven in Pakistan's restive tribal region.
"Let's remember that we funded the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to build these organisations when they were the Mujahideen and helping to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan. And so certainly residual links would not be a surprise," General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command, told US lawmakers.
"The question is what the character of those links is and what the activities are behind them," he said responding to a question from Senator John McCain at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Currently the Commander of the US Central Command, Petraeus has been nominated by the US President as the new Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan after the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal last week.
McChrystal had to resign after the appearance of an interview in which he was very critical of top officials of the Obama Administration.
When asked whether it was a matter of "concern" that Pakistan and the ISI continue to work with the Taliban, Petraeus said it is necessary to figure out if they are working with the Taliban to support the Taliban or to recruit sources in the Taliban.
"Well, again, what we have to always figure out with Pakistan center is, are they working with the Taliban to support the Taliban or to recruit sources in the Taliban," Petraeus said.
"And that's the difficulty, frankly, in trying to assess what the ISI is doing in some of their activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, in contacts with the Haqqani network, or the Afghan Taliban," he said.
But for the top commander "there are no questions about the longstanding lengths," referring to the past when ISI mentored and helped in the growth of such terrorist organisations.