In a London court last month, an alleged terrorist testified that he attended a training camp in Pakistan run by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's most powerful security agency. Then a British Defence Ministry think-tank released a report claiming the ISI had been supporting terrorism and extremism - whether in London, Afghanistan or Iraq. The incidents highlight Pakistan's ambiguous role in the 'war on terror'. It is a frontline American ally, yet it is still accused of being a training hub for terrorists and militants. Debate on the issue only intensified when President Pervez Musharraf told US television last Sunday that the ISI had not aided Taleban fighters in Afghanistan but that retired intelligence officials could be involved in their support. 'I have some reports that some dissidents, some people, retired people who were in the forefront in ISI during the period of 1979 to 1989, may be assisting with their [Taleban] links somewhere here and there,' General Musharraf said on NBC's Meet the Press. Some analysts suggest he was intending to rebut criticism of his administration while acknowledging an ISI link to militancy. 'He is deflecting responsibilities by accusing retired ISI officials,' said Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based defence analyst. 'But it cannot be so, as it would be an operational nightmare [to have rogue spies at large] when we talk of a sophisticated intelligence operation in the situation like Afghanistan.' Dr Siddiqa said she believed that General Musharraf had endorsed the British think-tank reports. 'The president himself said in the interview [on NBC] that if you want to win the war, you [the west] must co-operate with the ISI. That is basically conceding the fact that [the ISI] has official influence in Afghanistan,' she said. A former ISI chief rejected the president's comments. 'I know Afghans and most of the Northern Alliance leaders, who used to visit us. But I was not the ISI chief when the Taleban factor emerged,' said General Hameed Gul, who headed the ISI in the late 1980s. Nevertheless, the known Taleban sympathiser wished a victory to the militants fighting in Afghanistan. One of his former comrades, an ISI official-turned-jihadi, was even more explicit in his support. 'I do help the Taleban ... Yes. They are poor and resource-less Muslims and when they come to us it is our duty to help them out,' said Khalid Khawja, a retired squadron leader and an ex-ISI operative. 'If we can help the US, who are infidels and who kill us, why can't we help Taleban?' he said. Pressure is growing as the US and Britain seek solutions to Iraq and Afghanistan. 'The ISI is conveniently used as a fall guy. When you have to save your skin you can shift the responsibility on it, making a hue and cry that it defies government policy,' Dr Siddiqa said. Asad Durrani, another former director-general of the ISI, said the president was too hasty in blaming ISI elements for helping militants. 'I don't know any who might be working for them. But from Ireland to anywhere, be it Hezbollah or other groups, non-state elements have become a great power now.'