Observing that the ISI's "strategic approach" has been to foment trouble in India and Afghanistan, a top US military official today said the Pakistani intelligence agency needs to change its outlook and cease connections with the Taliban.
"Pakistan created the ISI and its strategic approach has been to foment (trouble) towards India, foment (trouble) towards Afghanistan and in their insecurity in that regard, the ISI has a mission," Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said.
"A lot of that will change, I believe, long-term if they have more confidence in their own security," Mullen said in response to a question during his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He said he had expressed concerns about the links between ISI and Taliban during his talks with the Pakistani leaders.
"I have had lengthy discussions with Pak civilian and military leadership, the military leadership is critical here and what I've watched and certainly expressed this concern and my belief has been for some time that I believe the ISI has to change its strategic approach in order for progress to be made over the long term," he said responding to a question from Senator Russ Feingold.
Mullen noted that Pakistani army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani and the civilian leadership of that country has changed the leadership of ISI.
Pakistan has changed "almost the entire leadership (of ISI), not just (its chief Shuja) Pasha, but the principle directorates are all people that General Kiyani trusts. We've had this discussion. This has happened over the last six months," Mullen said.
"So I think this is going to take some time. The ISI is very supportive in ways and constructive in ways that we concur in. There are still challenges about connections with militants and their support of those militants as well, and I have constantly address those concerns, will continue to do that," he said.
Mullen, who has been visiting Pakistan almost every other month in the past one year, said: "The ISI is an organisation that as long as last summer I have talked publicly about needing to change its strategic direction."
At a very high level it gets to the question of how Pakistan ensures its security. "It has historically done that by agitating both in Afghanistan and in India. To the degree that they are secure, they feel good about their security in the future, I think that argues for and presents potential for a strategic shift," he argued.
"That said, there is a gray area in the ISI that many of us don't understand. Clearly those kinds of connections that you talked about have been there. And they need to cease at some point," Mullen said.
During the testimony, several Senators questioned the commitment of ISI and its continued links with the Taliban.