Relationship between ISI, terror groups not surprising: Allen

Relationship between ISI, terror groups not surprising: Allen

 The relationship between Pakistan's ISI and terror groups is not surprising, says a top US General based in Afghanistan, who has also recommended that the dreaded Haqqani network of Taliban be slapped with sanctions.

"I don't think we should be surprised that they (ISI) have a relationship with them (terrorist organisations). That relationship between the ISI and a number of these organisations goes back a very long time," Gen John Allen, Commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said yesterday.

His comments came in response to a question at the Brookings Institute, an eminent Washington-based think-tank.

"So we shouldn't be surprised they have a relationship with them, but I would not speculate on what specific operational support they have or whether they're an action arm. I would just say that the relationship potentially is unhelpful in that regard," Allen said.

The top US General said that he has also recommended that the Haqqani network be slapped with sanctions.

However, he said there are opportunities for the US to work with Pakistan to increase the bilateral cooperation.

"The November cross-border incident (the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year) set back the relationship that we had across the border, and I have sought in the aftermath of the investigation to put in a number of control measures and to revamp a number of processes and procedures which will reduce to the maximum extent possible the recurrence of something like that," he said.

Allen said the two countries have been able to in helpful and useful ways, restore cross-border ties, with Pakistan's senior military leadership noting that there have been several meetings -- three in the last couple of months -- where general officers from ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) and Pakistan have met to begin the process of restoring the border relationship.

"It was actually even more than that. The border relationship was important to the overarching trilateral relationship -- ISAF, ANSF and Pakistani military -- which would culminate, ultimately, in a tripartite relationship, where we could even do campaign planning, so that we had complementary effects across the border," he said.

"Right now, of course, much of the relationship is subject ultimately to the outcome of the debate that is occurring in the Pakistani Parliament, where I think the Parliamentary Committee on National Security has been chartered to review the relationship between the US and Pakistan and then make a series of recommendations," Allen said.
The US is not right now at the point with the Pakistanis that it can have that kind of a conversation about complementary or cooperative operations across the border, he noted.

"But I'd sure like to get there again. And we actually were... the day before (the November NATO attack), when I was meeting with (Pakistani army chief) Gen (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani, talking about the potential for complementary operations," he observed.
"It is a strength prior to that event. It held great opportunity to give substance to the commitment of Pakistan ultimately to dealing with insurgents and dealing with the (terrorist) safe haven issue.

"Safe havens have been no value really to the Pakistanis either. They've had more then 2,000 killed in their own counter-insurgency operations in the last couple of years. They've paid a price for Pakistani military operations," Allen said.

So depending on the outcome of that debate in the Parliament in Islamabad, it would be "my desire that we began as soon as we can to talk about how we might combine our capabilities across the border to get after the safe havens in general, but also to go after some of the insurgents," he said.