Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pakistan: Intelligence agents and paramilitary forces 'helping Taliban'

Washington, 10 June (AKI/DAWN) - A leading US think-tank has accused members of Pakistan's intelligence service and its main paramilitary force of providing "direct assistance" to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The report, funded by the US Defence Department, was released on Monday by the Rand Corporation.
The study alleged that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI and the principle paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps have not only failed to root out Afghan insurgents; “in some cases, individuals from these Pakistani organisations have provided direct assistance to such groups as the Taliban and Haqqani network."
The report was referring to the insurgent group led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Siraj. The Rand Corporation noted that persuading Islamabad to deal with rogue elements within its own ranks “will require a difficult political and diplomatic feat.” Recently, top US generals in Afghanistan also levelled similar allegations against Pakistan and a congressional delegation that visited Islamabad last month urged the US government to doubt its assistance to the Frontier Corps because of its alleged involvement with the Taliban.
“Every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in neighbouring countries, and the current insurgency is no different,” said the author of the report, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at Rand. “Right now, the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan’s government, and until that ends, the region’s long-term security is in jeopardy.”
The report backed claims by US and Pakistani governments that members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan’s tribal belt “assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and conducted brazen attacks against the Pakistan army, ISI, and officials from other government agencies.”
According to the report, some active and former officials from the ISI and Frontier Corps provided logistical support to the Taliban and helped secure medical care for wounded insurgents in cities such as Quetta in south-west Pakistan. They also helped train Taliban and other insurgents destined for Afghanistan and Kashmir, in Quetta, Mansehra, Shamshattu, Parachinar, and other areas within Pakistan. To minimise its visibility, these individuals appeared to supply indirect assistance, including financial assistance, to Taliban training camps, the report said.
“NATO officials uncovered several instances in which ISI operatives provided intelligence to Taliban insurgents at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. This included tipping off Taliban forces about the location and movement of Afghan and coalition forces, which undermined several US and NATO anti-Taliban military operations.”
The report also claimed that two former ISI officials, General Hamid Gul and Colonel Sultan Amir Imam, gave widely reported speeches at government and military institutions in Pakistan calling for jihad against the United States and the Afghan government. Individuals within the ISI and other Pakistan government agencies provided several types of assistance: ensuring that wounded Taliban and other insurgents received medical aid, training insurgents at camps in Pakistan, providing intelligence, financial assistance and assisting with logistics in crossing the border, the report said.
The study claimed that this assistance was “consistent with the Pakistan government’s past behaviour; especially the ISI,” which, throughout the 1990s, provided arms, ammunition, supplies, financial aid, and training to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the radical Hezb-i-Islami group .“Pakistan also helped recruit fighters for the Taliban, sometimes working with domestic religious associations,” the report claimed.

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