Pakistan directing Taliban operations in Afghanistan, says GOP Rep. Hunter

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said several top U.S. commanders indicated that Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) directorate was playing a direct role in planning and supporting Taliban-led operations against American and Afghan troops in the country. 

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“The fact that the [Pakistanis] are controlling them was pretty astounding to me," Hunter told the San Diego Union Tribune after a recent congressional trip to the country. 

But Hunter, who was part of a congressional delegation that included House Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), said ISI's perceived role in Afghanistan was actually a positive sign for the country. 

"It’s bad, but it bodes well I think for long-term stability. That means it’s an external threat. It’s not an internal Taliban takeover like it was in the [1990s]," the California Republican told the Union Tribune

Washington and Islamabad have maintained an uneasy, and at times tenuous, relationship since the beginning of the decade-long war in Afghanistan. 

Hunter's comments come just as Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter sat down with top Afghan leaders to discuss the war's progress, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw completely from the country in the next two years. 

Carter met Afghan Minister of Defense Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Minister of Interior Ghulam Mujtaba Patang on Sunday during a high-level meeting in Kabul. 

The stop was part of Carter's week-long goodwill trip in the region. 

During the meeting, Carter emphasized the "U.S. commitment to the Afghan National Security Forces and the ongoing development of the Afghan forces' enabling capabilities," according to a Pentagon release issued Monday. 

At that sit down, Carter also secured Kabul's cooperation to help stem the tide of rampant "insider" attacks by Afghan troops against U.S. forces. 

To date, more than 50 coalition troops, mostly U.S. service members, have been killed at the hands of Afghan forces. 

"The deputy secretary of defense and the Ministers pledged to work together on a number of important issues, including the sustained development of the Afghan National Security Force and reviewing efforts to prevent insider attacks," according to the Pentagon statement. 

Pentagon and White House officials have repeatedly claimed Pakistan's decision to provide safe havens for the Taliban and associated factions, like the infamous Haqqani Network, inside its borders has cost American lives and prolonged the war in Afghanistan. 

Last September, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen publicly accused ISI members of sponsoring the deadly cross-border attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan by Haqqani gunmen based inside Pakistan. 

For its part, Pakistan has hammered the Obama administration for its aggressive use of armed drone strikes against known terrorist targets inside Pakistan, near the the country's border with Afghanistan. 

The situation reached a boiling point last May, when U.S. special operations forces conducted a raid against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's compound in Abottabad, Pakistan. 

Without Islamabad's knowledge, U.S. forces slipped across the border from Afghanistan and executed the raid, which ended in the death of the al Qaeda chief. 

However, tensions have soothed since the Abottabad raid. Earlier this year, Islamabad agreed to reopen critical supply routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan to U.S. and coalition forces. 

The decision to reopen the routes, however, did not come until after the secretary of State issued a rare apology for a friendly fire by U.S. warplanes incident last November that ended with the deaths of a number of Pakistani troops. 

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