Pakistan's Main Intel Agency Gets New Chief

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The new chief of Pakistan's main intelligence service will surely be scrutinized by American officials who have questioned the powerful spy agency's loyalties in the war on terror.

The appointment of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as head of Inter-Services Intelligence was among several changes in what appeared to be a major shake up of the military leadership.

In his most recent capacity as director general of military operations, Pasha oversaw military offensives against insurgents in the nuclear-armed nation's restive northwest.

The region is home to Taliban and al-Qaida militants involved in attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as rising strikes within Pakistan.

An army statement announcing the changes late Monday gave no more details about Pasha, but Pakistani defense analyst Talat Masood described him as "highly professional."

Pasha replaces Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, who was in the position about a year after being appointed by former President Pervez Musharraf. Taj was a close Musharraf aide who previously served as his military secretary, including during his 1999 coup.

Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally who retired as army chief last year, was forced to quit the presidency in August amid threats of impeachment by the fledgling civilian government. The army statement said Taj has been appointed Corps Commander for Gujranwala.

The statement listed several new postings that are expected to take effect in several weeks.

Masood said the changes appeared to be an effort by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — who succeeded Musharraf as army chief and once headed the ISI himself — to consolidate his control over the military.

U.S. intelligence agencies suspect rogue elements in the ISI have been giving Taliban militants sensitive information to aid them in their growing insurgency in Afghanistan.

India and Afghanistan — and reportedly the U.S. — also suspect the agency of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India's Embassy in Kabul that killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Pakistani intelligence helped create the Taliban militia, many of whose leaders and recruits studied at religious schools in Pakistan. Pakistan also was one of the few countries that gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban's fundamentalist rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Officially, Pakistan allied itself with the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but observers say elements in the ISI may still be aiding Taliban fighters in part to retain them as assets against longtime rival India.

In July, the Pakistani government reportedly tried to bring the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry, but quickly reversed the decision apparently after military dissent.

Pakistan has spent about half of its 61-year history under army rule, but Kayani has indicated he wants to keep the military out of politics and rehabilitate its image after Musharraf's nine-year rule.

Still, the army chief has shown an independent streak and has condemned in harsh terms U.S. crossborder strikes in Pakistan's northwest. The army statement said Taj has been appointed Corps Commander for Gujranwala.

Army spokesman Maj. Murad Khan, an army spokesman, said Tuesday that Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal would succeed Pasha as director general of military operations. He declined to provide any details about Iqbal.

Meanwhile, police in Pakistan said Tuesday a land mine exploded, killing three soldiers and wounding four more in southwestern Baluchistan province. A purported militant spokesman said it was a roadside bomb.

Dera Bugti area police chief Abdul Majid Dasti said troops were patrolling the area in a vehicle when it hit the mine.

Dera Bugti is a hub for militants in Baluchistan who have waged a low-level insurgency seeking greater provincial autonomy and more financial benefits from the area's natural resources.

Baluchistan Republican Army spokesman Sarbaz Baluch said militants detonated a bomb under the vehicle using remote control.