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Pakistan helping Afghan Taliban – Nato

Pakistan is finding it harder to convince outsiders it is not helping the Afghan Taliban and giving safe haven to its leaders.

In effect, the accusation is that Pakistan is betting on the insurgents being the strongest power in Afghanistan and most likely ally once Nato leaves – something Islamabad of course strenuously denies.

The leak of this report comes at a particularly sensitive time. Pakistan is already blocking the supply route to coalition forces in Afghanistan, following a Nato attack in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

With increasing pressure being heaped on Pakistan, public support here for formally ending co-operation with the West simply grows.

Aleem Maqbool
BBC News, Islamabad

The Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services, according to a secret Nato report seen by the BBC.

The leaked report, derived from thousands of interrogations, claims the Taliban remain defiant and have wide support among the Afghan people.

A BBC correspondent says the report is painful reading for international forces and the Afghan government.

A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman called the accusations “ridiculous”.

“We are committed to non-interference in Afghanistan and expect all other states to strictly adhere to this principle,” Abdul Basit told the BBC.

“A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our own interests. We cannot indulge in any activity which takes us away from achieving that objective,” he added.

The report alleges that Pakistan knows the locations of senior Taliban leaders.

“We have long been concerned about ties between elements of the ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence service] and some extremist networks,” said US Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby, adding that the US Defence Department had not yet seen the report.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is currently in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

‘Informational’

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says the report – on the state of the Taliban – fully exposes for the first time the relationship between the ISI and the Taliban.

The report is based on material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians.

It notes: “Pakistan’s manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly”.

It says that Pakistan is aware of the locations of senior Taliban leaders.

“Senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani, maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of ISI headquarters in Islamabad,” it said.

It quotes a senior al-Qaeda detainee as saying: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching.”

“The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad.”

Our correspondent says the report seems to suggest that the Taliban feel trapped by ISI control and fear they will never escape its influence.

However, it states: “As this document is derived directly from insurgents it should be considered informational and not necessarily analytical.”

Adm Mike Mullen, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has explained Pakistan’s closeness to the Afghan Taliban by pointing to infiltration of its army by the religious right, but he also says it is part of a grand strategy to increase leverage in the region via “proxies”.

Despite Nato’s strategy to secure the country with Afghan forces, the secret document details widespread collaboration between the insurgents and Afghan police and military.

Lt Col Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, said the document was “a classified internal document that is not meant to be released to the public”.

“It is a matter of policy that documents that are classified are not discussed under any circumstances,” he said.

The report also depicts the depth of continuing support among the Afghan population for the Taliban, our correspondent says.

It paints a picture of al-Qaeda’s influence diminishing but the Taliban’s influence increasing, he adds.

Taliban influence

In a damning conclusion, the document says that in the last year there has been unprecedented interest, even from members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban cause.

It adds: “Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption.”

The report has evidence that the Taliban are purposely hastening Nato’s withdrawal by deliberately reducing their attacks in some areas and then initiating a comprehensive hearts-and-minds campaign.

It says that in areas where Isaf has withdrawn, Taliban influence has increased, often with little or no resistance from government security forces. And in many cases, with the active help of the Afghan police and army.

When foreign soldiers leave, Afghan security forces are expected to take control.

The report says that surrender is far from their collective mindset.

“For the moment, they believe that continuing the fight and expanding Taliban governance are their only viable courses of action,” it adds.

According to the report, rifles, pistols and heavy weapons have been sold by Afghan security forces in bazaars in Pakistan.

The report adds that Taliban members “do not receive salaries or other financial incentives for their work”, but their operations are funded by the narcotics trade and they frequently take a cut from the trade.

Their main revenue, though, is from donations, and they travel around the country from door to door making no secret of their affliation, it says.

Source: BBC News

Interestingly both Pakistan and Taliban deny:

Pakistan has rejected accusations laid out in a leaked Nato report that it was secretly supporting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The Taliban also issued a denial that it is planning peace talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia.

The statements came as the leaked Nato report charged that Pakistan’s security services were backing the Taliban militia, who consider victory inevitable once Western combat troops leave in 2014.

The leak was spectacularly bad timing for Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who was in Kabul for the first time since taking office last year in a bid to thaw frosty ties between the two neighbours.

“We have no hidden agenda in Afghanistan,” Khar told reporters after meeting President Hamid Karzai. “These claims have been made many, many times. Pakistan stands behind any initiative that the Afghan government takes for peace.”

The Taliban chose the same day to deny that they would soon hold talks with Karzai’s government in Saudi Arabia to end the decade-long war since they were toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001.

“There is no truth in these published reports saying that the delegation of the Islamic Emirate would meet with representatives of the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia in the near future,” the Taliban said on their website.

Afghan officials had suggested that talks in Saudi Arabia would be in addition to contacts in Qatar between the Taliban and the United States.

But it was never clear whether the Taliban, who have resisted talks with the Afghan government, or the Saudis, who have conditioned involvement on the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda, would come on board.

Taliban negotiators have begun preliminary discussions with the United States in Qatar on plans for peace talks aimed at ending the war.

But they said in their statement on Wednesday that they had not yet “reached the negotiation phase with the US and its allies”.

“Before there are negotiations there should be a trust-building phase, which has not begun yet,” the statement said.

One of the Taliban’s demands is for the United States to free five of its leaders from detention in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

The leaked Nato report – seen by The Times newspaper and the BBC – was compiled from information gleaned from insurgent detainees and was given to Nato commanders in Afghanistan last month.

The “State of the Taliban” document claims that Islamabad, via Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, is “intimately involved” with the insurgency and that the Taliban assume victory is inevitable once Western troops leave in 2014.

The Times quoted the report as saying the Taliban’s “strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact”, despite setbacks in 2011.

“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” it said.

“Once (Nato force) ISAF is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable.”

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), however, appeared to distance itself from the contents of the document.

The document “may provide some level of representative sampling of Taliban opinions and ideals but clearly should not be used as any interpretation of campaign progress”, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings told AFP.

Pakistan’s foreign minister said: “We consider any threat to Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty as a threat to Pakistan’s existence.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look forward to a relationship based on trust.”

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul told the same news conference: “There will be no peace in the region if there is no serious regional co-operation.

“Pakistan plays a key role in Afghan peace process. I hope Ms Rabani’s visit is the beginning of a good relationship between our two countries.”

Kabul government officials declined immediate comment on the report.

Source: AFP