WASHINGTON: Pakistan's intelligence agency is pressuring Afghan Taliban members to shun US-backed peace talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, a Wall Street Journal report alleged.
Citing Taliban commanders and US officials, the newspaper said Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has encouraged Afghan insurgents to step up attacks, including those on civilians, and resist surrender or peace talks.
"The ISI wants to arrest commanders who are not obeying (ISI) orders," the Journal quoted a Taliban commander in Kunar province. The commander said he had no plans to stop fighting foreign troops, but war opposed to the broad-based attacks being urged by some ISI officials.
"The ISI wants us to kill everyone -- policemen, soldiers, engineers, teachers, civilians -- just to intimidate people," the newspaper quoted the commander, adding that the agency had tried to arrest him when he refused.
The Journal claims US officials said they had heard similar reports of ISI pressure on Taliban members from insurgents who had been captured or agreed to lay down arms. It remains unclear whether ISI pressure on the Taliban to resist negotiations comes from the top of the agency, or is the work of lower-level intelligence personnel, US officials were quoted as saying.
The report claims some believe that the upper echelons of the powerful organisation are trying to reform it, but face opposition from rank and file members. Other US officials believe lower level officers are acting with the sanction of their commanders. "I haven't seen evidence that the ISI is not in control of all of its parts," a senior US defense official told the WSJ.
This is the second critical report on Pakistan's role in the war on terror published in the Wall Street Journal this week.
The report comes amid growing tension between the US and Pakistani governments over Afghanistan, with Washington convinced Islamabad is waging a half-hearted battle against militants. The earlier report claimed that US officials fear Islamabad has avoided tackling insurgents that use Pakistani bases to launch attacks in Afghanistan to ensure continued control over the pace of the war in its neighbor.
Islamabad denies the accusations, and a Pakistani official told the Journal that the ISI was simply an easy scapegoat for setbacks in Afghanistan. "Whenever anything goes wrong in Afghanistan, ISI is to be blamed," a senior Pakistani official told the newspaper. "Honestly, they see ISI agents behind every bush in Afghanistan."