Washington : The Taliban’s widening campaign in southern Afghanistan is made possible in part by direct support from operatives in Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, according to the New York Times.
This was so “despite Pakistani government promises to sever ties to militant groups fighting in Afghanistan, according to American government officials”, the influential US daily said.
The support consists of money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders who are gearing up to confront the international force in Afghanistan that will soon include some 17,000 American reinforcements.
Support for the Taliban, as well as other militant groups, is coordinated by operatives inside the shadowy S Wing of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Times said citing unnamed officials.
There is even evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections, it said.
The Times said details of the ISI’s continuing ties to militant groups were described by a half-dozen American, Pakistani and other security officials during recent interviews in Washington and Islamabad.
The American officials were cited as saying proof of the ties between the Taliban and Pakistani spies came from electronic surveillance and trusted informants.
The Pakistani officials interviewed said they had firsthand knowledge of the connections, though they denied that the ties were strengthening the insurgency, the Times said.
American officials have complained for more than a year about the ISI’s support to groups like the Taliban.
“But the new details reveal that the spy agency is aiding a broader array of militant networks with more diverse types of support than was previously known – even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI’ s playing a ‘double game’ had ended,” the Times said.
American officials have said mid-level ISI operatives occasionally cultivate relationships that are not approved by their bosses. “But the Pakistanis offered a more nuanced portrait,” the Times said.
The Times cited them as suggesting “the contacts were less threatening than the American officials depicted and were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India, Pakistan’s archenemy.”
A senior Pakistani military officer was quoted as saying: “In intelligence, you have to be in contact with your enemy or you are running blind.”