Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency ISI is behind the attack on Pathankot air base in Punjab using a terrorist group it created 15 years ago, a former top White House official has said.
Bruce Riedel, who worked in the National Security Council of the White House and was among the few present at the Bill Clinton-Nawaz Sharif meeting in 1999 during Kargil war, said the attack is designed to prevent any detente between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise Christmas Day visit to Pakistan.
In an article in the Daily Beast, Riedel said the attacks in Pathankot and on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan was the handiwork of Pakistani terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad which the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) created 15 years ago.
He quoted “well-informed press and other knowledgeable sources” for his assessment.
He said the ISI is under the generals’ command and is composed of army officers, so the spies are controlled by the Pakistani army, which justifies its large budget and nuclear weapons program by citing the Indian menace.
“Any diminution in tensions with India might risk the army’s lock on its control of Pakistan’s national security policy. The army continues to distinguish between ‘good’ terrorists like JEM and LET and ‘bad’ terrorists like the Pakistani Taliban, despite decades of lectures from American leaders,” he said.
Riedel, a former CIA officer, said the Pakistani army has long distrusted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has advocated a detente with India since the 1990s.
“An army coup in 1999 sent him into exile in Saudi Arabia for a decade. His warm embrace of Modi on Christmas Day in his home in Lahore undoubtedly angered the generals,” he said.
He noted that the US put JeM on the terrorist sanctions list years ago but it continues to coddle the Pakistani army.
“Gen Raheel Sharif, the army’s boss, got a warm embrace from the Pentagon last fall despite the ISI support for the Afghan Taliban’s offensive against the Kabul government and despite the Pakistani military’s backing of terror groups like JeM,” he said.