Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI keeps ties to the Taliban as a “strategic hedge” due to uncertainty about the future of the war in Afghanistan, according to US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates.
“Their maintaining contact with these groups, in my view, is a strategic hedge...”he told CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday commenting on ISI’s support for insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“They’re not sure what’s going to happen along that border area. So to a certain extent, they play both sides,” he added.
Gates and other top defence officials have expressed concern over ISI’s relationship Afghanistan-based insurgent groups ever since President Barack Obama’s administration released its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.
But both Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have suggested that stronger and enduring US engagement with Pakistan can lead to a distancing between the ISI and insurgent elements. Mullen said he was “cautiously optimistic” that with time and patience, the US will show that it has followed through on its initial commitment to Pakistan.