The CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan's intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency's annual budget, current and former U.S. officials say.More ...
The Inter-Services Intelligence agency also has collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA program that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department, officials said.
The payments have triggered intense debate within the U.S. government, officials said, because of long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.
But U.S. officials have continued the funding because the ISI's assistance is considered crucial: Almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan's tribal belt, where ISI informant networks are a primary source of intelligence.
The White House National Security Council has "this debate every year," said a former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official involved in the discussions. Like others, the official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Despite deep misgivings about the ISI, the official said, "there was no other game in town."
The payments to Pakistan are authorized under a covert program initially approved by then-President Bush and continued under President Obama. The CIA declined to comment on the agency's financial ties to the ISI.
U.S. officials often tout U.S.-Pakistani intelligence cooperation. But the extent of the financial underpinnings of that relationship have never been publicly disclosed. The CIA payments are a hidden stream in a much broader financial flow; the U.S. has given Pakistan more than $15 billion over the last eight years in military and civilian aid.
Remember, this is the same outfit that still thinks the ol' ISI-mujahideen op worked out just fine. Maybe from their point of view, it still is.