- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A small group of officers from Pakistan's intelligence services visited Kandahar without permission from the government at the end of last month, reportedly to help the Taliban regime prepare its defenses and a strategy against U.S. attacks, according to retired military officers.
The visit, by at least three and possibly five serving and retired midlevel officers of the Interservices Intelligence (ISI), was in defiance of orders by Pakistan's president and chief of the Army staff, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who on Monday replaced ISI chief Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmad.
Gen. Musharraf had ordered Pakistani diplomats and ISI officers to leave Afghanistan a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Gen. Musharraf then rapidly switched Pakistan's policy of support to the Taliban and swung behind the U.S.-led alliance, saying it was in Pakistan's national interest to do so.
Senior retired army officers said Gen. Musharraf was infuriated when informed of the officers' trip because it could have jeopardized Pakistan's relations with the United States and Britain. There is no suggestion that Gen. Ahmad knew about the trip either, but he nevertheless resigned as ISI chief.
Until the Sept. 11 attacks, the ISI was the main conduit for Pakistani military support and fuel supplies to the Taliban regime.
ISI officers have served as military advisers to the Taliban army especially during their summer offensives against the anti-Taliban alliance. Several ISI officers have become intensely loyal to the Taliban and its hard-line Islamic ideology.
It is not known what has happened to the officers who visited Kandahar, but military sources said that the new ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ehansul Haq, will carry out a reshuffle of the ISI and will replace officers who support to the Taliban.
Gen. Haq, the former head of the army's military intelligence, is a popular and highly respected officer, both in military and political circles for his moderate views and his desire to return the country to democracy.
He is also a Pathan from the northwest frontier province and is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role in helping control the anti-American and pro-Taliban leaders in Pakistan who have led anti-government protests. They also have called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States. Many of these religious leaders are also Pathans from the frontier province.
Gen. Musharraf's reshuffle of the top echelon of the army's command structure has been widely welcomed by the media and politicians. It strengthens his power base within the army and allows him greater flexibility to deal with the political crisis created by the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.
The reshuffle has also impressed Western ambassadors in Islamabad, who now believe there will be no problems in intelligence-sharing between Western intelligence agencies and the ISI a key demand of the Western alliance.
Although Islamabad has said that it will not allow U.S. troops to use Pakistani soil for any ground attack in Afghanistan, the reshuffle will allow Gen. Musharraf to be more flexible to further demands from the Western alliance.

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