A secret NATO report claims to “fully expose” direct links between Pakistan’s Inter Sevices Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban, the BBC reported early on Wednesday.
The leaked report has been derived from thousands of interrogations of captured Taliban, al Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians.
According to the BBC, the leaked report notes “Pakistan manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly.”
It goes on to add “as this report is derived directly from insurgents, it should be considered informational and not necessarily analytical.”
The BBC report cited its correspondent in Kabul, Quentin Sommerville, who called the report “painful reading” for international forces fighting in Afghanistan, and the Afghan government.
Pakistan has denied it has any links with the Taliban, but maintains that solution to the region is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
The report claims that Pakistan and its ISI intelligence agency are aware of the locations of senior Taliban leaders.
“ISI officers tout the need for continued jihad and expulsion of foreign invaders from Afghanistan.”
The Times newspaper, which also saw the report, quoted it 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.”
Kabul, which accuses Islamabad of supporting the 10-year Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, put relations on ice after the September murder of its peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, which one Afghan minister blamed on Pakistani spies.
The US Department of Defense said it could not comment on the report but set out its fears about Pakistan and its influence in Afghanistan.
“We have not seen the report, and therefore cannot offer comment on it specifically,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told AFP.
“We have long been concerned about ties between elements of the ISI and some extremist networks.”
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “has also been clear that he believes that the safe havens in Pakistan remain a serious problem and need to be addressed by Pakistani authorities.”
In its conclusion, the report said there had been unprecedented interest in joining the Taliban cause in 2011 – even from members of the Afghan government.
“Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption,” it was reported as saying.
The Times, in an editorial, said Pakistan was “actively hindering reconciliation” between the Taliban and Kabul.
“Islamabad appears to be engaged in a systematic effort to destabilise the Kabul government of (President) Hamid Karzai prior to the withdrawal of Western forces, and to assist those attacking and killing those forces.
“The ISI emerges from this document looking considerably more villainous, even, than the Taliban itself.
“The picture that is painted is very much one of a force that both expects, and is widely expected, to have a big stake in controlling the Afghanistan of the future.”