By S. M. Hali
According to the latest exposé by WikiLeaks, US authorities describe Pakistan’s premier intelligence service ISI as a terrorist organization in secret files obtained by the British daily “Guardian” and “New York Times”. The selective leaks reveal recommendations to interrogators at Guantánamo Bay to rank the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) alongside Al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon as threats. Being linked to any of these groups is an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity, the documents say. The documents dated September 2007 and called the Joint Task Force Guantánamo Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants state that "Through associations with these … organizations, a detainee may have provided support to Al-Qaida or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against US or coalition forces [in Afghanistan]". It adds that links to these groups is evidence that an individual poses a future threat.
In November 2010, the “Guardian” had attempted to smear the ISI through speculative and baseless reports that US intelligence services had been receiving reports of ISI support for the Taliban in Afghanistan for many years. The Threat Indicator Matrix is used to decide who among the hundreds of Guantánamo detainees can be released. The ISI is listed among 36 groups including Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; the Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs; the Iranian intelligence services; and the Muslim Brotherhood. Though the document dates from 2007 it is unlikely the ISI has been removed from the current Threat Indicator Matrix.
In classified memos outlining the background of 700 prisoners at Guantánamo there are scores of references, apparently based on intelligence reporting, to the ISI allegedly supporting, coordinating and protecting insurgents fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, or even assisting Al-Qaida.
The documents on the one hand, do acknowledge Pakistan’s support to the war in terror and extensive collaboration between the ISI and US intelligence services. Many of those transferred to Guantánamo Bay, including senior Al-Qaida figures such as Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who is alleged to have planned the 9/11 attacks, and Abu Farraj al-Libbi, one of the group's most capable operators, were arrested with Pakistani help or turned over to American authorities by Pakistani intelligence services.
The memos rely on a variety of sources to make their case. Though the broad argument for releasing or detaining an individual has sometimes been made public during military tribunals at Guantánamo, the material underpinning those arguments has remained secret until now. The “Guardian”, BBC and “Telegraph” stories, which had earlier disclosed an Al-Qaida operative accused of bombing two Christian churches and a luxury hotel in Pakistan in 2002, who simultaneously working for British intelligence MI-6, has been selectively ignored. Adil Hadi al Jazairi Bin Hamlili, an Algerian citizen described as a "facilitator, courier, kidnapper, and assassin for al-Qaida", was arrested by Pakistan in 2003 and later sent to Guantánamo Bay.
Intelligence from elsewhere, including foreign spy agencies such as the Afghan National Directorate of Security, appears to have been extensively used. There is little independent corroboration for the reporting and some of the information is likely to have been obtained under duress. Systematic human rights abuses have been recorded at Guantánamo. The WikiLeaks exposé revealing the alleged ISI support for insurgents, shed light on the thinking process of US strategists and senior decision-makers who would have been made aware of the intelligence as it was gathered. Many documents refer to alleged ISI activities in 2002 or 2003, long before the policy shift in 2007 that saw the Bush administration become much more critical of the Pakistani security establishment and distance itself from President Pervez Musharraf.
A number of names have been mentioned in the files including Harun Shirzad al-Afghani, Abdul Kakal Hafiz, Hamidullah, Mullah Haji Rohullah and Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa. All the reports are not only speculative, but talk of a similar train of thought. Nearly every statement appears to be a carbon copy of the other and talks of a high level meeting of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, in which allegedly ISI officials were present, training imparted by ISI and the money disbursed by ISI. The disturbing aspect is that the WikiLeaks exposé in actuality focus on the human abuse aspect at Guantánamo; however, instead of taking the breach of rules seriously and coming down hard on the perpetrators of the heinous crimes committed by the prison officials as well as CIA authorities, a selective leak has been made to the “New York Times” and “Guardian”, where the ISI has been targeted. Unfortunately, this is a malady the CIA appears to be suffering from constantly, where its own shortcomings are piled upon a scapegoat. Take the case of the War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, as the US Armed Forces launched Operation Enduring Freedom along with the British Armed Forces and Afghan Northern Alliance in response to the 9/11 attacks with the stated goal of dismantling Al-Qaeda and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations.
The United States also promised to remove the Taliban regime from power and create a viable democratic state the Afghan Operations. The US managed to install a puppet regime in Kabul but beyond that it has little or no control. Having lost more than 2500 US soldiers and spent over 5 trillion US dollars, the endgame is nowhere in sight. Instead of accepting defeat gracefully, the CIA and U.S. are busy in pinning blame on Pakistan and ISI. Certain sections of the Pakistani Press and a few pseudo intellectuals too buy such baseless allegations and dim-wittedly repeat them with gusto. The same is true for some politicians, who without realizing that the ISI is not only the custodian of the ideological frontier of Pakistan, but also its nuclear capability and all that stands between the enemy’s sinister designs and Pakistan’s security. For national resources to be parroting unsubstantiated propaganda is like playing into the hands of Pakistan’s detractors and damaging a premier national institution, which besides its admirers, also has its critics and antagonists who would like to bring it down. It should be understood that Afghan nationals and terrorists, who were tracked down and arrested by ISI will only spew venom against it and not shower accolades.