Pakistan's double game April 18, 2009 http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/e...ls/articles/2009/04/18/pakistans_double_game/ IT IS HARDLY a secret that Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has long maintained close ties with the Taliban and kindred armed extremist groups. But now that President Obama has focused on repelling the Taliban's bid for power in Afghanistan, sending 17,000 fresh American troops to bolster US and NATO counterinsurgency forces there, Pakistan's treacherous double game has to be confronted squarely. In a recent story drawing on accounts from US and Pakistani security officials, The New York Times described how the secretive S Wing of the ISI provides militant groups with ammunition and fuel for the fight against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Operatives in S Wing also recruit new fighters for the Taliban from radical madrasas inside Pakistan. And ISI personnel help those groups with strategic planning, even counseling them when to step up and when to gear down their operations. The good news is that, by using informants and intercepted communications, US intelligence was able to uncover the ISI's complicity with the Taliban. The bad news is that no matter how vehemently US officials complain to their Pakistani counterparts, nothing much changes. The ISI goes on using Islamist militants as proxies because Pakistan's national-security establishment views them as an indispensable asset. The ISI's jihadist proxies are meant to counter India's influence in Afghanistan. That was the lesson when US intelligence determined that the ISI was behind last summer's bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. The ISI's puppet show in Afghanistan enables Pakistan to prevent not only India but also Iran and Russia from gaining too much of a foothold in Afghanistan. The double game also brings Pakistan $1 billion a year in military aid from the United States. This is how the game works: The army and the ISI hunt down Al Qaeda figures for the United States and have no compunctions about striking hard against Islamist radicals who want to seize power in Pakistan. These actions make Pakistan a valued US ally in the war on terror. But at the same time, Pakistan has an interest in keeping the jihadist pot boiling in Afghanistan. As long as the Taliban and kindred groups are in the field, American military aid continues coming in, and India is kept at bay. Yet this game inflicts great harm on Afghanistan and its other neighbors. As President Obama said recently, "Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders." If Pakistan makes the right choice, Obama should commit America to achieving peace and reconciliation between India and Pakistan.