The CIA-ISI relations

The ISI is the CIA’s most important partner against al Qaeda but also the most difficult.

Questions:

1. How vital is the cooperation of CIA and ISI in the fight against terrorism, and why?

2. What is the biggest problem of the CIA-ISI relations? The fact that some elements of ISI have allegedly good contacts with various terrorist groups?

Answers:

Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

The ISI is the agency’s most important partner against al Qaeda in the world but also the most difficult.  It has helped kill or capture more AQ than any one else but AQ’s headquarters and leaders are still in Pakistan and still deadly.  ISI still plays both sides of the terror game which causes the strains with CIA.

James Blake, Intelligence Analyst, Janusian – The Risk Advisory Group

1. Relations between the CIA and ISI are fundamentall in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan continues to host many of the world’s most dangerous and capable terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda central, Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Haqqani Network and Tehrik-e-Taliban to name but a few.

For the US, obtaining accurate intelligence on these groups without the help of the ISI is extremely difficult, particularly in North Waziristan, where a number of the groups have bases. Without accurate intelligence, as we have witnessed over recent years, many of these groups will continue to plot attacks against US interests. It should be noted that many Westerners, including US citizens, go to train in Pakistan’s tribal areas, so a continued relationship with the ISI – to attempt to track and subsequently arrest these individuals – is crucial.

Another important consideration is the war in Afghanistan. Throughout recent history there have been various verifiable reports from the US and Afghanistan that elements of the ISI has helped train and advise the Afghanistan Taliban. For the future any significant strategic gains in Afghanistan will require continued collaboration with the ISI.

2. In my opinion, from the CIA’s perspective, its biggest current problem with the ISI is a lack of trust. It is unhappy with an alleged double standard, whereby the ISI will clamp down on some terrorist groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban, but let others such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Haqqani network operate with impunity within Pakistani.

From the ISI’s perspective, they are currently particularly unhappy about US interference in Pakistan, particularly the number of unidentified CIA contractors operating in the country. They are also upset about continued US drone attacks.

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