Pakistani Intelligence and the Taliban Are Too Close for Comfort

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Pakistani intelligence has ties with the Haqqani network. These ties are at the heart of our problematic relations with Pakistan.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has no doubts. "The Pakistani intelligence has ties with the Haqqani network. These ties are at the heart of our problematic relations with Pakistan," he said 10 days ago on his way to Pakistan to iron out the differences between the two states.

The Haqqani network, headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, is seen as the largest terror group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is closely allied with the Taliban. The ties between this group and other terror gangs have for years raised American suspicions regarding Pakistani intelligence.

Afghanistan Taliban AP Oct. 15, 2001

Pakistani intelligence helps the CIA capture Al-Qaida terrorists, while at the same time supporting Taliban organizations.

The distrust between Mullen and the CIA toward Pakistani intelligence could also give a clue as to whether Pakistani intelligence had known of the operation to kill bin Laden and more important, if it assisted the operation.

Pakistan's polished, cautious statement that it cooperates with several intelligence services in the war on terror and that it will not allow terror groups to operate from its land, mainly reflects Pakistan's efforts not to raise the anger of some dozen terror organizations operating within its borders.

"The Pakistanis always knew more than they shared with us," George Tenet, former CIA director, wrote in his memoir "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," published in 2007. "They did not cooperate with us in the war against Al-Qaida." This is how he described the relations between the intelligence services.

Pakistan sees India, not the Taliban, as its main enemy. It fears Islamic terror but sees the alliance with Taliban as an effective strategy to keep Delhi and terror at bay. Hence Pakistan's cold response to the American demand to help it in the hunt for bin Laden after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

That day, Pakistani Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad visited Washington and told his hosts that Mullah Omar, bin Laden's "host" and Afghanistan's de facto head of state at the time, was all in all a good man who wants the good of the Afghani people. Ahmad politely but firmly refused to pressure Mullah Omar to extradite bin Laden.

The Americans are also suspicious of the Pakistani army, despite the considerable assistance it receives from the United states: $7.5 billion over the next five years.

Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, head of Pakistan's army and the one who trained and financed Taliban activists, is not exactly America's dream ally. While siding with the U.S., he is also credited with keeping a hard line on India.

Pakistan too has complaints about the United States' activities in Pakistan - such as using drones that kill as many civilians as terrorists.

Pakistan's government has become irrelevant in the war on terror, but they have nuclear weapons. With the internal political struggles and increasing economic problems it is facing, it is doubtful whether Pakistan's government can remove this mistrust.