Pakistan may see itself as America's strategic ally in fighting terror, but American authorities regard its intelligence agency, the ISI, as a terrorist organisation along with some of the world's most notorious terror groups, including the Al-Qaeda.
The dramatic revelation emerges from a secret document published by The Guardian on Monday.
Dated September 2007 and called the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants, it reportedly lists 36 groups and says being linked to any of these organisations is an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.
The Matrix is used to assess the terror links of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and the threat posed by them.
The document, which contains recommendations to interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to help them decide who among the hundreds of prisoners can be released, says: “Through associations with these...organisations, a detainee may have provided support to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against U.S. or coalition forces (in Afghanistan).”
Besides the ISI and the Al-Qaeda, the (terrorist) “associations” include the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Al-Qaeda's deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri; the Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs ; the Iranian intelligence services; the Hezbollah; the Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Observers said the disclosure that the ISI was seen in Washington as posing the same level of threat as the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban would infuriate Pakistan and was likely to further “damage” the already strained relationship between the two countries.
The document is among more than 700 leaked secret files containing details about the “inner workings” of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp including guidance for American interrogators on how to decide whether to continue to detain or release prisoners, according to The Guardian. The newspaper said though the document dated from 2007 it was “unlikely” the ISI had been removed from the current Threat Indicator Matrix.
The ISI is reportedly referred to repeatedly in classified memos, detailing the backgrounds of prisoners and their alleged terror links. Some of the references relate to ISI's activities in 2002-2003 before Washington started to question Pakistani security establishment's commitment to fighting terror.
According to the Guardian report, there are “score of references, apparently based on intelligence reporting, to the ISI supporting, coordinating and protecting insurgents fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, or even assisting al-Qaeda”.
One terror suspect, Harun Shirzad al-Afghani, reportedly told interrogators that in 2006 an unidentified ISI office paid one million Pakistani rupees to a militant to transport ammunition to a depot in Afghanistan jointly run by the Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Hezb-e-Islami group.