ISI continues to support and encourage the Haqqanis to launch attacks

The toxic fallout is continuing in the spat between the United States and Pakistan over allegations that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence openly connives with terror groups such as the fearsome Haqqani network.

The latest public rebuff of this bitter saga was delivered to Pakistan on Friday in a statement by Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby, who said to media that “there has been a long-standing historical relationship between the ISI and extremist groups.”

Declining to get into the “specifics” of the intelligence that the U.S. possessed on the support that the Haqqani network enjoyed in Pakistan, Mr. Kirby however said: “All I can tell you is that we are confident that the ISI continues to support and even encourages the Haqqanis to launch these attacks.”

His comments came in the wake of sharp recriminations between top officials in the U.S. and Pakistan, which was set off by a statement by U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen on Thursday, who said that “the Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of [the] ISI.”

Admiral Mullen also cited specific instances of alleged ISI-Haqqani network cooperation in terror attacks, noting that “With the ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted... [the September 10 Kabul] truck bombing, as well as the [September 14] assault on our embassy.”

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Admiral Mullen added that the U.S. was in possession of “credible evidence” that the ISI was behind these and other attacks earlier in the summer in Afghanistan.

Following this damning indictment, senior Pakistani officials, including Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, reacted angrily and respectively warned that blaming Pakistani agencies for such attacks was “very unfortunate and not based on facts,” and that the U.S. could “lose an ally” in the fight against extremism.

Ms. Khar, who is in the U.S. for the United Nations General Assembly, said, “You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan. You cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people,” adding that the U.S. had not shared any evidence with Pakistan about its evidence on the ISI-Haqqani network connections.

Yet it was obvious that the Pentagon was not backing down from Admiral Mullen's comments. “The chairman stands by what he testified before the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that the terror outfit's activity “has become more brazen, more aggressive, more lethal, and the information has become more available, that these attacks have been supported or even encouraged by the ISI.”