MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A top Central Intelligence Agency official traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials.
The C.I.A. emissary presented evidence showing that members of the spy service had deepened their ties with some militant groups that were responsible for a surge of violence in Afghanistan, possibly including the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the officials said.
The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants.
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The C.I.A. assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The C.I.A. has depended heavily on the ISI for information about militants in Pakistan, despite longstanding concerns about divided loyalties within the Pakistani spy service, which had close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks.
That ISI officers have maintained important ties to anti-American militants has been the subject of previous reports in The New York Times. But the C.I.A. and the Bush administration have generally sought to avoid criticism of Pakistan, which they regard as a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism.
The visit to Pakistan by the C.I.A. official, Stephen R. Kappes, the agency’s deputy director, was described by several American military and intelligence officials in interviews in recent days. Some of those who were interviewed made clear that they welcomed the decision by the C.I.A. to take a harder line toward the ISI’s dealings with militant groups.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, is currently in Washington meeting with Bush administration officials. A White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, would not say whether President Bush had raised the issue during his meeting on Monday with Mr. Gilani. In an interview broadcast Tuesday on the PBS program “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Mr. Gilani said he rejected as “not believable” any assertions of ISI’s links to the militants. “We would not allow that,” he said.
The Haqqani network and other militants operating in the tribal areas along the Afghan border are said by American intelligence officials to be responsible for increasingly deadly and complex attacks inside Afghanistan, and to have helped Al Qaeda establish a safe haven in the tribal areas.
Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the acting commander of American forces in Southwest Asia, made an unannounced visit to the tribal areas on Monday, a further reflection of American concern.
The ISI has for decades maintained contacts with various militant groups in the tribal areas and elsewhere, both for gathering intelligence and as proxies to exert influence on neighboring India and Afghanistan. It is unclear whether the C.I.A. officials have concluded that contacts between the ISI and militant groups are blessed at the highest levels of Pakistan’s spy service and military, or are carried out by rogue elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus.
This article was posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 4:29 am