No Pak Role in Fomenting Trouble in Afghanistan: Petraeus
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Former US military commander Gen (R) David Petraeus has said that during his long association with his Pakistani counterparts and interaction with ISI as head of CIA, he could never find a convincing piece of evidence which supported the alleged double game by ISI or its explicit support to elements associated with terrorism.
This statement was given by the general while answering a question during an interactive discussion session that was held at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in the last month during which the commander talked about wide range of issues and challenges likely to be faced by the next US administration.
During the discussion, an Afghan female student from Buckingham University asked the general about the alleged complicity of Pakistan in fomenting trouble in Afghanistan, double role played by ISI and why US was not using its influence to reign in Pakistan. The general gave an elaborate reply and talked for about 7-8 minutes. He said that during his long association with his Pakistani counterparts and interaction with ISI as head of CIA, he could never find a convincing piece of evidence which supported the allegation of double game by ISI or its explicit support to elements associated with terrorism. He said like any other intelligence agency, ISI might have had some sort of communication channels to engage with them and there may have been some degree of accommodation but the talk about explicit support or double game is more of a journalistic conclusion with no concrete evidence. He said that Pakistan Army’s campaign against the Taliban in Swat in 2009 and its subsequent progress in most of the Tribal belt under General Kayani and his successor, General Raheel Sharif, was impressive.
“Pakistan Army suffered casualties and had limited Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities though the US did try to help and there existed enormous amount of cooperation between the two militaries. However, the unfortunate episodes of Raymond Davis and publications of book by Bob Woodward and WikiLeaks did impact negatively on this cooperation”. Petraeus added that he looked hard to establish any linkage between Pakistan Army, FC and ISI with any of the terrorist elements and did not find any supporting evidence. What Pakistani military has not been able to achieve has more to do with its capacity rather than it being complicit. He again said that the popular narrative about ISI double game etc was a journalistic thing. He said that some people refer to Pakistan as FRENEMY but again exact pinning down the blame on Pakistan for attacks on US soldiers in Afghanistan remains ‘very very difficult’.
As regards the leverage, there is a limit to what US can achieve. US did cut of all aid, stopped F-16s but it did not help and the two countries only came together after 9/11. He said that managing its relationship with Pakistan would be among the top two or three challenges for the next administration”. Considering his background as one of the top US military leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq and former head of CIA, comments of General Petraeus against the popular Afghani, Indian and Western propaganda maligning Pakistan Army/ISI is considered very helpful in setting the record straight especially considering the significant attendance of the event by people from various backgrounds. The session was moderated by Sir Peter Ricketts, Senior Association fellow of RUSI.
The event was attended by around 150 people, including members of RUSI, academia and diplomatic community. Another question relating to Pakistan was posed by a British Pakistani (from Mirpur AJ&K) named Owais Rajput which touched multiple issues like Kashmir, terror financing and need for UK-based legislation to check terrorists’ financing. The general first said that he did not understand the essence of the question. Later on, he added that Modi had handled the Kashmir situation well and the retaliatory action by Indian military was a fairly skilful move”.