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ISI must be reformed, says US diplomat

The Pakistani military’s powerful and controversial spy agency needs reform but there is no indication this is happening yet, the top US diplomat for South Asia has said.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2008 00:56 IST

The Pakistani military’s powerful and controversial spy agency needs reform but there is no indication this is happening yet, the top US diplomat for South Asia said on Monday.

“It has to be done,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said of revamping the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, widely known as the ISI.

Asked if he had seen signs of reform, he said: “No, I don’t have anything in particular I would point to right now.”

Despite its help in fighting al Qaeda, the ISI is viewed with deep suspicion by US officials who believe it retains links to the Taliban and other militants blamed for supporting attacks on US forces across the border in Afghanistan.

US forces have stepped up strikes on militants on the Pakistani side of the border, angering Islamabad and straining relations between the allies.

Pakistan’s military has ordered its forces to open fire if US troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.

The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual September 3 ground attack by US commandos, are certain to heighten tension between Washington and a key ally against terrorism.

However, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that after US helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids.

“The orders are clear,” Abbas said in an interview. “In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire.”

US military commanders accuse Islamabad of doing too little to prevent the Taliban and other militant groups from recruiting, training and resupplying in Pakistan’s wild tribal belt.

Pakistan acknowledges the presence of al Qaeda fugitives and its difficulties in preventing militants from seeping through the mountainous border into Afghanistan.

However, it insists it is doing what it can and paying a heavy price, pointing to its deployment of more then 100,000 troops in its increasingly restive northwest and a wave of suicide bombings across the country. There are 33,000 US troops near the Afghanistan border in Pakistan.

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