LONDON: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) provides funding, training and sanctuary to the Taliban in Afghanistan, claimed a report for the London School of Economics (LSE). The study has been dismissed by the Pakistani military as “malicious and baseless”.
The LSE study, based on interviews with nine Taliban field commanders in Afghanistan between February and May this year, claims their relationship goes far beyond what is currently known.
“Although the Taliban have a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement,” wrote author Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University.
“[The commanders] say [the ISI] gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In their words, this is ‘as clear as the sun in the sky’.”
Waldman said the ISI appears to exert “significant influence” on strategic decision-making and field operations of the Taliban and controls the most violent insurgent units, some of which appear to be based in Pakistan.
Insurgent commanders claimed the ISI was even officially represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, said the report.
The report also alleges that President Asif Ali Zardari himself had assured captive, senior Taliban leaders that they were “our people” and had his backing. He had apparently authorised some to be released from prison.
The study concludes that efforts by the Afghan government and Nato-led forces to end the insurgency in Afghanistan will only be possible with Pakistan’s support.
The report drew an angry reaction from the Pakistani military.
“It is a part of a malicious campaign against the Pakistan army and the ISI,” DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
“It is baseless. The sacrifices by Pakistan’s army and the ISI and the casualties in the war on terror speak for themselves,” he said. “We have a series of questions on the credibility of the report.”
Foreign office spokesperson, Abdul Basit, also dismissed the report, calling it “rubbish and tasteless”.
“As is always the case, [the report] quoted anonymous sources,” said Basit, adding that “it is an attempt to unnecessarily complicate matters.”
Last week saw a surge in Taliban attacks as 30 Nato soldiers were killed and the alliance announced a two- to three-month delay in the peak of the Kandahar drive, the most ambitious counter-insurgency operation in the war to date.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 14th, 2010.