The ISI is Pakistan's intelligence gathering agency, and combines the functions of domestic, international and military intelligence. To put it in western terms, it's a little bit like an amalgamation of the CIA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency. ISI was founded in 1948 by a British army officer who served in the Pakistani army during the twilight of colonial rule. They are the kingmakers of Pakistan, enjoy only nominal oversight, and have acted numerous times to displace civilian leaders and install military rule.

Since ISI controls the most far-reaching network of intelligence operatives in central Asia, and has extensive ties to the western intelligence apparatus, it is often used to perform proxy operations in the region, such as arming and training the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980's. However, this does not mean that they don't have an agenda of their own - the ISI is deeply involved in operations designed to advance Pakistan's interests abroad (especially in India) and to increase its own clout within Pakistan.

ISI is composed of at least seven separate divisions, employing 10-50,000 on a budget of 52 million USD:

Since the mid-1980's, ISI has been predominately occupied with tending to its interests on the eastern border with India and the western border with Afghanistan. In India proper, ISI maintains contact with Muslim communities in Punjab to the west, Tamilnadu in the south and Assam in the northeast. Many in India believe that the purpose of these contacts is to ultimately create secessionist movements and make India a smaller nation. Additionally, involvement in the disputed territory of Kashmir has stepped up since India took control of Siachen glacier in 1984. ISI has sought to bring all Kashmiri Muslim rebel groups under one banner, to help make sure the outcome of the campaign is accession to Pakistan as opposed to outright independence.

Since Pakistan does not have the capability to monitor two hostile borders, it cultivated the Taleban, and supported them until recently (some say with American backing). This meant that they did not have to worry about fighting on the Afghan border, and also helped ensure a steady influx of manpower into Kashmir from Taleban training camps as well as Pakistani madrassas. However, since September 11, Pakistan has publicly turned against the Taliban. This caused the ISI to recall its agents working in Afghanistan, and created dissent among native fundamentalists. Some observers have grumbled that Pakistan's value as an ally in the war is compromised by this course of action, and that it would have been preferable for them to feign continued support for the Taliban and keep collecting information on the ground. Others question whether the ISI really is an ally at all.

some information fairly used from the Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Resource Program (fas.org/irp/)

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