Musharraf Defends Pakistani Intel Agency
(Gold9472: Originally posted here.)
By DAVID STRINGER
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 28, 2006; 12:21 PM
LONDON -- A leaked document accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of indirectly supporting terrorist groups including al-Qaida and calls on Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to disband the agency.
Musharraf, who is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair later Thursday, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he rejected the assessment and would raise the matter with his counterpart.
"ISI is a disciplined force, breaking the back of al-Qaida," Musharraf told the BBC, claiming his intelligence service had secured the arrests of 680 suspected terrorists.
The broadcaster said the documents were written by an unidentified senior researcher at the Defense Academy, which is a ministry think-tank. It said the document was part of a private British review of efforts across the world to combat terrorism.
The BBC quoted the document as saying that Pakistan was coming under "closer and closer" international scrutiny because of the intelligence agency's support for the country's hard-line opposition Islamic coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, also called MMA.
"Indirectly, Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism _ whether in London on (July 7, 2005) or in Afghanistan or Iraq," the BBC quotes the document as saying. "Pakistan is not currently stable but on the edge of chaos."
The 2005 date refers to the suicide bombings on London's transit system that killed 52 commuters.
Britain's Ministry of Defense said the document was part of academic research and did not represent the views of either the ministry or Blair's government.
"To represent it as such is deeply irresponsible and the author is furious that his notes have been willfully misrepresented in this manner," the ministry said in a statement read by a spokeswoman. "Indeed, he suspects that they have been released to the BBC precisely in the hope that they would cause damage to our relations with Pakistan."
A spokesman for Blair said the prime minister's meeting with Musharraf would cover topics including terrorism and Afghanistan.
Musharraf traveled to London after talks Wednesday in Washington with President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Musharraf said he and Karzai decided to increase cooperation in fighting terrorism, including developing better intelligence coordination and interaction.
"The meeting that I held with President Bush and Hamid Karzai last night was very good," Musharraf said in comments aired live on Pakistani TV. "It was decided that we should have a common strategy. We have to fight terrorism. We have to defeat it, defeat it jointly."
It was a stark departure from the recent criticisms he and Karzai have lobbed at one another in recent days. Karzai has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to curb Islamic schools that produce militants, while Musharraf said the Afghan leader was ignoring large sectors of his war-ravaged country's population.
Right up to Wednesday night's White House dinner, they also have pointed fingers at one another over Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders. Each says bin Laden isn't hiding in his country and suggests the other might do more to help find him.
Tensions were still apparent in Washington. Following the dinner, Karzai and Musharraf attended a news conference where they both shook Bush's hand but didn't shake each other's.
The BBC also reported Wednesday that British military commanders were overruled by politicians in a request to withdraw troops from Iraq to strengthen force numbers in Afghanistan.
It said the document suggested military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were heading toward an "as yet unspecified and uncertain result."
It painted a bleak picture of military and counterterrorism work, similar to a U.S. intelligence assessment _ parts of which were declassified Tuesday _ that warned of a growing terrorist threat and concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists.
British troops are being "held hostage in Iraq following the failure of the deal being attempted by the COS (Chief of Staff) to extricate UK Armed Forces from Iraq on the basis of doing Afghanistan," the BBC quoted the document as saying.
It said senior commanders had hoped to focus resources on the NATO-led mission to secure governance in southern Afghanistan, where British, Canadian and U.S. troops have met fierce resistance, the BBC said.
The BBC said the document reinforced claims that military intervention in Iraq had served to encourage extremism, a notion repeatedly rejected by Blair.
"Iraq has served to radicalize an already disillusioned youth and al-Qaida has given them the will, intent, purpose and ideology to act," the BBC quoted the document as saying.