Pakistani agency linked to support for militants

U.S. intelligence suspects rogue elements in Pakistan's spy agency are giving militants sensitive information to help them launch more effective attacks from the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, a Bush administration official said Wednesday.

Top CIA and U.S. military officials recently traveled to the country to press their concerns about the apparent ties with Pakistani officials.

An administration official said the decision to send CIA Deputy Director Steve Kappes to the meetings in Islamabad with Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came amid evidence initially collected by the U.S. and corroborated by Indian intelligence that some members of the Pakistani intelligence community were actively aiding the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The official said the information indicated specific mid-level officers in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency likely were leaking sensitive intelligence about operations in the tribal areas to militants that was “not only increasing their offensive capability, but also their defensive capability,” resulting in a rise in the number and lethalness of attacks.

The official said long-standing CIA frustration with the Pakistanis had been growing for months – especially since opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last year – and peaked after the July 7 suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which New Delhi has blamed on Islamabad. Kappes' visit came five days later on July 12, the official noted.

Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied accusations of any official Pakistan complicity with terrorist groups, calling them “unfounded and baseless,” but he confirmed to The Associated Press that Kappes and Mullen met this month with Pakistani generals, including Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief.

The meeting came five months after Pakistan elected a new civilian government to replace Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally who seized power in 1999. It also comes as a top Pakistani official publicly rejected giving the U.S. military authority to enter the tribal regions to attack terror networks.

The United States has grown increasingly frustrated as al-Qaida, the Taliban and other militants thrive in Pakistan's remote areas and in neighboring Afghanistan, and has asked that U.S. troops be allowed to strike at terror networks. The new regime says it prefers to negotiate a new peace agreement with militant groups in the relatively ungoverned region.