Pakistan’s spy chief visits Kabul in an effort to unify rival Taliban factions

Inter-Services Public Relations PakistanTHE DIRECTOR OF PAKISTAN’S powerful intelligence agency paid a surprise visit to the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, reportedly in an effort to mediate between rival factions of the Taliban. Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, was accidentally spotted by a British television crew in a Kabul hotel on Saturday. When asked about the purpose of his visit, Hameed said he planned to hold a meeting with Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. He did not respond to questions about whether he would also meet with the leadership of the Taliban, with whom the ISI has traditionally had close relations.

On Sunday, however, it emerged that Hameed had met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Pakistan-supported Pashtun leader and founder of Afghanistan’s Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin party. There are rumors that Hekmatyar, who served twice as Afghanistan’s prime minister in the 1990s, will be asked by the Taliban to join a coalition government. There are rumors that Islamabad is pressuring the Taliban to include non-Taliban figures in their cabinet, and thus form a governing partnership with non-Taliban elements.

Additionally, numerous reports claim that serious differences have emerged between the two strongest factions of the Taliban, which concern the appointment of cabinet officials. One faction is led by the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the other by the Taliban deputy leader, Anas Haqqani. The latter is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Haqqani Network —a militant group that works closely with the Taliban but has retained its operational independence. There were even reports that Haqqani militia members exchanged gunfire with Taliban units in Kabul last Friday, though these were dismissed as untrue by the Taliban.

Many observers believe that the differences between the various Taliban factions are real, and that Hameed traveled to Kabul in an effort to help them resolve their differences with the help of Pakistan’s mediation. The Reuters news agency cited an anonymous Pakistani senior official as saying that Hameed’s visit was also aimed to help the new Afghan government organize its military, and to ensure that the airport in the Afghan capital will become operational soon.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 6 September 2021 | Permalink

Pakistan dismisses head of powerful spy agency after only eight months on the job

Lieutenant General Asim MunirIn a surprising move the Pakistani military has dismissed the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency just eight months after appointing him to that position. The decision was announced on Sunday in a brief statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the public-relations wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The statement said that Lieutenant General Asim Munir had stepped down from his post as director of ISI and would take over as commander of the Gujranwala Corps in Punjab, Pakistan’s second-largest province. The statement did not explain the reasons for the reshuffle; the latter came as a surprise, as ISI directors typically serve for at least three years in that post. General Munir’s tenure began in October of this year.

General Munir has been replaced by Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who until this latest appointment was head of the ISI’s counterintelligence directorate. Last October, when General Munir was promoted to ISI director, Hameed was promoted to the rank of three-star general. In April he was promoted again, this time from major general to lieutenant general, and was appointed Adjutant General at the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Armed Forces. His meteoric rise in the ISI has won him several devotees and he is seen as an influential intelligence planner in the ranks of the powerful spy agency. He rose to prominence outside of the ISI in late 2017, when he personally mediated to broker a deal between the government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and leaders of the so-called Ahmadiyya community. Followers of the Ahmadiyya movement, a messianic Muslim sect with a substantial following in the Punjab, had taken to the streets to complain of discrimination and harassment by the authorities. According to media reports at the time, Hameed threatened to use the Pakistani Army against the Ahmadiyya protesters if they did not scale down their public protests. Such reports cause some in Pakistan to view Hameed as a military hardliner and a firm believer in the view of the military as the guarantor of political normalcy in Pakistan.

Meanwhile in an unrelated development Indian officials said on Sunday that Islamabad had alerted Delhi of a possible attack by al-Qaeda in a region of Indian-administered Kashmir. Media reports said that Indian officials had been warned by the ISI that al-Qaeda forces planned to carry out “a major terror strike” in the Pulwama region of southern Kashmir. Security observers noted the move as a rare instance of intelligence cooperation between the two rival nuclear-armed nations. As a result, India said it had deployed nearly 500 additional companies of police officers in the southern Kashmir region.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 17 June 2019 | Permalink