Now the Bush administration is even more convinced that the Pakistani Army and its intelligence arm ISI, who still calls the shots in Islamabad, are continuing their toxic policies. But firm action against them is constrained by both the transition phase in Washington and the US dependence on Pakistan to maintain supply lines to its troops in land-locked Afghanistan. Officials are now re-examining options in this regard, particularly US leverage against Islamabad if Pakistan considers interdiction strategies.
Pakistan came close to being named a state sponsor of terrorism in 1992 when then Secretary of State James Baker charged then prime minister Nawaz Sharif of supporting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The then US envoy in Islamabad Nicholas Platt conveyed to Sharif that "we (US) are very confident of our information that your intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, and elements of the Army are supporting Kashmiri and Sikh militants who carry out acts of terrorism... This support takes the form of providing weapons, training and assistance in infiltration ... We're talking about direct, covert support from the Government of Pakistan."
In his talking points, Platt continued: "Our information is certain. It does not come from the Indian Government. Please consider the serious consequences to our relationship if this support continues... If the situation persists, the Secretary of State may find himself required by law to place Pakistan in the U.S.G. [United States Government] State sponsors of terrorism list... You must take concrete steps to curtail assistance to militants and not allow their training camps to operate in Pakistan or Azad Kashmir."
The situation was defused by Sharif government removing then D-G of ISI Javed Nasir even as Washington was going through a transition phase (from Bush Sr to Clinton).
But it now appears that the ISI has cranked up its policy from mere infiltration and support to outright commando style attacks.
Despite a soft-line adopted by Bush administration in public to the benefit of doubt to Pakistan's civilian government and spur it into action, Washington has little doubt that the terrorist attack on Mumbai was sponsored and planned with state support, US officials are saying privately. One things is certain; this was not a run-of-the mill LeT operation.
"I think this event looks a lot more like a classical Special Forces or commando-style raid than it does like any terrorist attack we've seen before," David Kilcullen, a counter insurgency military analyst who served as an advisor to Gen. Davis Petraeus tells Fareed Zakaria in the upcoming edition of his program GPS, articulating what US officials are saying in private. "No al-Qaida-linked terrorist group and certainly never Lashkar-e-Taiba has mounted a maritime raid of this type or complexity."
The US intelligence community believes that hijacking a fishing vessel, infiltrating via the sea, via inflatable boat, launching diversionary attacks designed to pull the first responders out of the way of the subsequent follow on groups that struck the Oberoi, the Taj Mahal, the Nariman Center and the equipment the terrorists carried and their attire were all in the vein of a covert special-forces raid rather than a traditional terrorist attack.
Pakistan's covert support to Taliban and al-Qaida elements on the country's western front has been extensively chronicled in US military circles in recent months, although political and strategic expediency has constrained Washington from speaking about it in public. In December 2006, Afghan security forces captured Sayed Akbar, an ISI officer, who had been tasked by Pakistani intelligence with serving as a conduit to al-Qaida, which was operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border in the Kunar region.
Debriefed by US and Afghan officials, Akbar said he had escorted Osama bin Laden as he traveled from Afghanistan's Nuristan province into Pakistan's Chitral district, prompting US to rush an FBI team there. Afghan President Hamid Karzai also accused Pakistan around the same time of sheltering Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Quetta and said he had even provided GPS coordinates and phone numbers of the hideout to Pakistan's military government but it did not act.
A few months later a US commander, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Nash, who worked with the Afghan police, made a widely discussed slide presentation on his return to Washington, saying "ISI involved in direct support to many enemy operations ... classification prevents further discussion of this point." The support included "training, funding, [and] logistics," he added.
But the most damning, and most recent, piece of evidence came after the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul when US intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack. The messages, US officials said later, indicated that the ISI officers involved in the bombings were not "renegades," or "stateless actors," and "their actions might have been authorized by superiors."
Washington now believes that is also the case with Mumbai, which is why, notwithstanding a soft public stance, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has conveyed to President Zardari what her predecessor Baker told Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan is on track to being declared a state sponsor of terrorism if it does not act.
It was because of this long history of Pakistan's corrosive terrorist record that an outraged Rice dismissed Islamabad's request for evidence this time, saying, there is a "lot of information about what happened here, a lot of information... And so this isn't an issue of sharing evidence." Times of India