Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

s spy agency to cut ties with militants

February 21, 2002

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— After breaking with the Taliban and banning some militant Islamic groups, President Pervez Musharraf is moving to sever links between Pakistan's powerful spy agency and Muslim radicals.

But former operatives warn that the move won't be easy and may drive militants and their former contacts in the InterServices Intelligence underground, setting the stage for a dangerous power struggle.

Khalid Khawaja, a former agency operative who admits to having met Osama bin Laden and supporting extremist groups, told The Associated Press that the bond between agents and the Islamic radicals runs deep and won't easily be terminated.

Nevertheless, it appears Musharraf will try. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the spy agency has begun disbanding two units that had close links to Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials, said the move would result in the transfer of up to 40 percent of those assigned to the organization  some 4,000 people.

Intelligence officials would not confirm the extent of the cutbacks but said a significant number of "handlers"  intelligence agents who deal directly with militant organizations  have been reassigned.

None of the officials would allow their names to be published because they are still assigned to the InterServices Intelligence, or ISI.

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