A report published yesterday by the London School of Economics documents Pakistan’s extensive links to the Afghan Taliban. You can download and read the full report here [PDF file].
The author, Matt Waldman, doesn’t claim that only certain elements of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence directorate back the Afghan Taliban. Instead, Waldman goes further and states that the Pakistani military and even the government support the Afghan Taliban.
“Interviews strongly suggest that support to the Afghan insurgency is official ISI policy,” Waldman states.”It appears to be carried out by both serving and former officers, who have considerable operational autonomy.”
Waldman even makes the claim that President Asif Ali Zardari recently met with Taliban leaders in a prison and promised they would be released.
According to a Talib who has regular contact with members of the Quetta Shura, in late March or early April this year President Zadari and a senior ISI official visited some 50 highranking Talibs who were held in a prison in a secret location in Pakistan. Some 30-35 had been arrested in recent months, and 10-15 were longer-term prisoners. Reportedly, he told them they were arrested because he was under a lot of pressure from the Americans and that, ‘you are our people, we are friends, and after your release we will of course support you to do
While the report of Zardari meeting the Taliban may seem fantastic, it fits with past reports of top political officials actively backing the ISI and Army’s support of the Afghan Taliban. Former Prime Ministers NAwaz Sharif and Benazir Bhuto (Zardari’s wife) backed the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups.
“Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude,” Waldman states, or, perhaps, understates.
Longtime readers of The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix know that we’ve documented Pakistan’s duplicitous policy towards the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. For instance, Thomas Joscelyn and I summarized some of the more egregious Pakistani actions in the fall of 2008 in “Pakistan’s Jihad.” Note our conclusion, here:
The United States is now faced with an awful truth. Pakistan is both an ally and an enemy. The attacks in Mumbai are only the latest demonstration of the tactics the ISI is willing to sponsor in its quest for power in the subcontinent and beyond. We should be mindful that ISI-sponsored terrorism is a central component of our enemies’ worldwide designs. It should not come as a surprise if someday we find ISI-backed terrorists laying siege to New York or Washington, just as they lately brought carnage to Mumbai.
Personally, I am with Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s former head of the National Directorate of Security, when he said that Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan is long established.
“It will be a waste of time to provide evidence of ISI involvement,” told Reuters. “They are a part of it. The Pakistani army of which ISI is a part, they know where the Taliban leaders are — in their safe houses.”