Pakistan backs Afghan Taliban

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

your operations.’

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.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Bungo says:

    When I saw this on today I realized that the cover-up of Pakistan’s duplicity will, finally, soon be over and become public knowledge. That, in itself, will be a “game changer”. Things are going to get very interesting over the next 12 months. It will be very interesting to see when the U.S. President finally acknowledges this and what he says he’ll do about it. I predict some sort of “we’re taking this under advisement and considering our options” deflection.

  • sumit says:

    Yeah like it was a secret.

  • Jimmy says:

    Well, there you go..this would mean (and it proves what India has been telling the world for the last 9 years!) that NATO has been paying Pakistan to have its own soldiers killed!!!?? After all that is where the billions of dollars of aid and weapons ended up, right? – At the Taliban’s doorstep?
    Come on guys, wake up! Pakistan is making a laughing stock of the so-called western democratic superpowers…
    Pakistan is a scourge of this planet, pure and simple! It has to be balkanized. Thats the only acceptable payback for its inhuman genocide of peaceful populations and killing of so many NATO soldiers. If you do not like this option, then run the hell out of Afghanistan…because THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION!

  • David says:

    Here is the full report:
    “ISI pays 200,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,600) in compensation to the families of suicide bombers who launch attacks on targets in Afghanistan”
    “The Taliban commander confirmed that groups receive a reward from ISI for killing foreign soldiers, usually $4000 – 5,000 for each soldier killed”
    And then ISI/Pak Army send the bill to USA for reimbursement.

  • Charley says:

    When is the Obama administration going to change course with respect to Pakistan and stop calling it our ally. The longer we ignore the reality, the more of our troops will die.
    Breaking up Pakistan four ways could well be the ideal solution, brought about by massive bombing of each of the known terror training areas, even if it is in populated areas of Quetta, Karachi and Lahore. Let them get a taste of their medicine.
    Enough talk. Action now!!

  • michael says:

    hard evidence? interviews with a couple of junior commanders and a couple of former senior commanders, none of which is identified? what do the junior commanders know about the senior leadership? are the taliban more than a loose network of local resistance fighters and criminals, with some more professional groups (mullah omar, haqqani, heckmatyar, al qaeda etc.) mixed in? so how much could a couple of junior commanders know about the senior leadership? and how reliable are they? are afghans not cunning people who tell you what suits them (which means, not necessarily the truth)?
    this story sounds almost too good to be true: afghan taliban as puppets of isi. it might be true, but it is not convincing. back it up by hard evidence (documents and witness accounts which can be verified).

  • Tayyab Nazir says:

    I was surprised to see a report based on anonymous interviewers conducted by an unknown author to be the headline on bbc.
    Taliban commanders IF interviewed would be the biggest fools in the world to publicly humiliate possibly the only people in the world who support them.
    It seems to me that every tom and dick can interview top level taliban commanders in the afghanistan yet afghan intelligence fails to spot them. But afghan government do know where they reside in pakistan. Don’t they

  • JRP says:

    In reading this why does the phrase “None dare call it treason” come to mind? Our coddling of Pakistan shows the power any pipsqueak nation can achieve once it develops a nuclear arsenal. For fear of nuclear retaliation or further proliferation, we kowtow to Pakistan. Just imagine the mischief North Korea and Iran will instigate once their respective nuclear arsenals are up and running.

  • David Eliezer says:

    What the hell should we do now? Invade? Arm India?
    They have nukes!

  • T Ruth says:

    As i have said before (and the World knows it):
    Is Pensylvania Avenue in denial?
    Oh well, lets take another 5 months in developing a strategy. Then it’ll nearly be Christmas so we can take a 2-week holiday in Hawaii. On returning we can all play join-the-dots. After which it’ll nearly be time to go home. Then we can all live in peace ever after. Oh wait, forgot to ask our Paqistani “brothers” for the bill for safe passage. Lets settle that. That’s not enough? Whats that you said, whats the cost of peace? OK well, take a blank check, is that good enough? What, you want a tip too? Kerry-Lugar II will take care of that.

  • T Ruth says:

    How horrid for the beeb to give you a jolt on your Sunday morning. I hope you pressed the button and switched to al Jazeera immediately.

  • Paul says:

    US/Western aid pays for the Taliban insurgency Obama-Wake up and smell the Coffee.The problem with Afghanistan is Pakistan and for years we at Long War Journal/Rantburg have known it!
    Iran alongside Pakistan are our biggest enemies in the Region.Time for us to Support India and Split up this terrorist/Jihadi nation!
    Iran,Pakistan and Saudi want to replace democracy with Islamism-FACT!

  • hillbilly says:

    i am a pakistani and i hate it when the american civil and military leadership calls us allies….we are not your allies and we will be never your allies.
    if the the ordinary americans know that we are doublecrossing them,do you think american leadership do not know about it? if they know and still call us allies and give us money then what are you going to call your leadership? hypocrites or you will claim that are indulging themselves in orwellian double speak?
    i know pakistan is a messed up country but you are not angels either…you are the ones who harp about american values all the time but i am not sure you know the true meaning of values.
    Remember after 9/11 you arm twisted and threatened to bomb pakistan into stoneage and now you have no shame in asking us to be your true friends.
    What can you do about it? ….NOTHING.
    After 9/11 pakistans situation was that time we had a small nuclear arsnal and no reliable delivery system,its different now.we have a much bigger nuclear arsnal and very reliable delievery system……But we are not FOOLS we know that militarily we are no match for USA ( there is not country in the world who can match USA militarilly )… headbobing indian friends are little concieted but the indian leadership knows very well that they have no viable military option against pakistan and in present circumstances they will not risk their security for the sake of americans.
    NOW the billion dollar Question;why is USA tolerating pakistans duplicitious behaviour?
    Answer is simple , American politics and media is controlled by Jewish/Israeli lobby ( please dont deny it u know it very well) and american leadership will never go into a war that will threaten the very existance of Israel.
    Pakistans nuke can not reach mainland USA but Israel is well within its range. …COMPRENDE.
    Thank you,
    i just hope Bill is going to post my comments,i have been very careful in my choice of words….Bill has a soft corner for pak bashers but he gives no latitude to the other side.

  • pir monafiq says:

    Its a wonderful report. However, some of the points need clarification:
    1. If Pakistan is paying financially to equip the Taliban, then why not the rich West pay double or triple and disarm them?
    2. Why Taliban are dying and craving for death against super-power instead of living comfortable life under cozy Karzai’s govt in Kabul?
    3. If a professor can meet the top commanders of Taliban with such an ease in Kabul and Kandahar, then where is the NATO-US intelligence network to grab these neanderthals?

  • Shangi says:

    Apart from Michael and T Nazir, all use emotions and jumped to conclusions without hard evidence. Why everybody does forget the human and financial loses Pakistan has suffered. More than 1600 army personnel and more than 6000 civilians, a conservative figure on record, lost their lives in this war on terror fighting against Taliban. If speculations are all we go by then; (though I won’t justify)
    Foreign NGO’s or charity workers in the region have different agenda than what appears (M Waldman was in such a position, but interviewing Taliban commanders instead)
    Why did US and Allies go to Iraq (Without hard evidence of WMD’s)? Oil?
    9/11, an inside job?
    Why US and Allies went into Afghanistan? Caspian Oil? Or China?
    It’s not an exhaustive list, but the point is we shouldn’t look into it one-sidedly.
    The reasons given and the way he presents ISI stands as the work of fiction. If ISI helps Taliban only because of India ( as the report claims) then why not US and Allies put pressure on India to stop playing against Pakistan’s interests to gain the favours of ISI and save human and financial loses in the region.
    The same ISI helped the world against USSR, but now (as the report claims) when it tries to stand for its own interests labelled as ‘Notorious’.
    Ah!! Justice? An animal at the point of extinction.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    hillbilly, you do not see the number of comments that aren’t published on the other side of the issue. I don’t mind publishing either side, but many can’t seem to do so without violating the comments policy.

  • John Abraham says:

    Tayyab, Shangi,
    Shangi, ironic you claim the comments use emotions to jump to conclusions – read your own post.
    If you are looking for evidence you need go farther than the link (pdf)posted here from al Jazeera. Try to read it before venting here. Refer to the sources listed in the article.
    Also see if arguments are made from emotions, the style of your own comments.
    If that does not satisfy you what exactly do you need as evidence?
    You mean we should produce an audio/video tape of ISI officers talking on the Shura.
    Well, I guess we can bomb the hell out of a bunch of cities and ask for evidence that we did it.
    We can play dirty as well, and currently we may have to start playing dirty, no other options left.

  • John Abraham says:

    Journalists routinely have access to most violent militants.
    You can watch the video there. Its a long video. There is also a video on the same site where a female journalist interviews the Taliban leader notorious for training child suicide bombers.
    Then why can’t NATO get to them?
    Interviews are arranged at a particular time and place with whole lot of confirmations on each side to make sure one is not walking into the other’s trap.
    For Daniel Pearl it turned out to be a trap.
    NATO however can not arrange such meetings, even if they can, the targets would notice it and flee and mingle with (dense) general population, the easiest of ploys to escape a strike.

  • John Abraham says:

    Excerpt from the article (page 19)
    “When asked who it came from he replied: ‘The Americans. From them to the
    Pakistani military, and then to us.’ He was baffled as to why, in his eyes, the Americans were
    supporting their activities. (In fact, many Afghans believe that the United States is
    deliberately funding the insurgency. Although this is not credible, it is hardly surprising given
    America’s massive and sustained support to the Pakistani military.) Separately, the
    commander confirmed that groups receive a reward for killing foreign soldiers, usually $4-
    5,000 for each soldier killed.”
    That is to say: American Government is paying Taliban, via Pak Goverment, to kill US soldiers.
    Is anyone in the US government listening?

  • Max says:

    Surprise, surprise, surprise! (but only to the Pakistanis in the government-maybe)

  • T Ruth says:

    hillbilly, your type of ego appears founded solely on pak’s nukes.
    There is no doubt that is no good for the whole planet and its 7 billion people. It needs to be sorted even more urgently than AQ/T.There are a number of ways to go about that and you can expect some momentum in the next 12 months in that direction.
    Its sad that Pakistan has come to what it is. Imo it is a result of her mis-spent youth and lack of governance.
    There are a lot of extraordinary and evil things happening in your country. The large majority of your regular population have no role in this and are affected. But violence in a thousand different forms has become part of the very ugly landscape.
    The ordinary person is not so much a victim of the US, albeit they have pumped in some $80-100 billion over the decades crippling your own initiatives. Moreso, you have become a victim of your own pathetic leaders and the State’s propaganda. You have come to believe in Israel’s and India’s conspiracies who have nothing to do with your own utter lack of performance in economic- and nation-building. All the while, their economies have been marching ahead.
    It is difficult to see how Pak can get out of this morass. You are in crisis in your governance, in your security, your military, your police, your economy, your water, your agriculture, your electricity, your education, your religious divisions, your relationships with your neighbours, your provinces.
    Nothing short of a revolution can help begin a transformation.
    Better to make a realistic assessment of the chips on your own shoulder, see it as it is, than to keep looking over your shoulders, nuclear trigger in hand.
    I was really struck by the authenticity of this Pakistani commenter at Radio Liberty. With Bill’s permission, i repeat it here:
    “by: asif ali khan from: islamabad-Pakistan
    May 26, 2010 19:47 ReplyPakistan has become a torture cell for common Pakistanis.Poverty and ignorance has become our symbol.There is shortage of electricity and gas.The terrorists kill us in the mosques and markets.The constant humming of Drones has become a routine.The rulers are corrupt and what ever washington gave to past and present rulers,the poor people got nothing.The corrupt politicians and dictators purchased properties abroad and transfered the washington’s money in their personel bank accounts abroad. The poor people hate the pesent rulers and those who give them money.I believe the time is ripe for a bloody revolution.enough is enough.The present Judiciary and media has emerged as a ray of hope.The socalled democratic set up is headed by dacoits and hypocrites”
    You can view the full article here

  • Charu says:

    I applaud hillbilly’s refreshing candor. Instead of the usual attempts at taqiyah, s/he pulls no punches and lays it out from a Pakistani elite’s perspective. It is true that India (and the US) have been stymied from acting more forcefully because of Pakistan’s nukes. There is no question that the possession of nukes substantially levels the playing field for upright and rogue nations alike. However, Pakistan errs in believing that they can indulge in repeated brinkmanship under the nuclear umbrella indefinitely. At some point, if they persist in their delusions, there will be sufficient global consensus to call their bluff. And their (and N. Korea’s) fairy godmother, China, will not be there to protect them when the chips are down.
    I would hope that hillbilly would enlighten us on what Pakistan hopes to gain from this deterrent. Instead of using the nuclear umbrella as a means to spend less on its military state-within-the-state, and to invest the billions in aid from sugar daddies like Saudi Arabia, China and the US into education and land and social reform, it obsesses on bringing India down and Afghanistan under its thumb. It clearly has bet on the Taliban and jihad to carry out its deluded attempts at empire and the great game, and faces the real possibility that it will backfire and that these violent forces set in motion will consume it. Pakistan would likely disintegrate long before India or Afghanistan oblige the strategists in the Pakistani military, IMO; but how do you think Pakistan would benefit by deeply antagonizing the US (and Europe by extension), India and Afghanistan?

  • Tayyab Nazir says:

    Perhaps you may be kind enough to refer to the sources you mentioned that are in the report because you may call me dumb but when I read it more than half of the sources referred to interviews conducted in feb,mar,apr,may of IMPORTANT ANONYMOUS TALIBAN COMMANDERS by the author himself.
    I agree that JOURNALIST have access to the most notorious but interviews of important taliban leaders are almost always headline news and major scoops of the networks that carry them out. I just found it hard to believe that this author has virtually interviewed the whole taliban command structure in afghanistan in a 4 month period.
    Perhaps the author may reveal the names of some of IMPORTANT ANONYMOUS TALIBAN COMMANDERS in his next MAJOR ANALYSIS ( Perhaps of IMPORTANT ANONYMOUS TALIBAN COMMANDERS while conducting a meet of Quetta Shura in presence of Zardari and Mulla Omer) that I am sure will further enlighten us. I sure hope the taliban commanders wouldn’t mind the extra publicity.

  • John Abraham says:

    That is why we have Ahmed Rashid’s two books listed in the list of references.
    Read his two books. He is a Pakistani who interviewed Taliban for nearly 2-3 decades.
    He traveled to Afg and has access to their leadership structure. He routinely comments on BBC if you care to read (there was one a coupe of weeks ago).
    His analysis certainly fits with what is written in the pdf posted here.
    Actually the author even refers to Ahmed Rashid books with page numbers, but I suggest you read those books in entirety.
    May that should clear your doubts, it certainly did mine. He gives a historical background of the region which helps one in understanding the cultural component necessary to understand this quagmire.
    More references include many statements from US military generals, other articles analyzing the situation.
    The article is convincing because all these statements from different sources corroborate each other. Coincidence that bunch of independent organizations/individual reached the same conclusion? Perhaps.

  • T Ruth says:

    According to The Sunday Times of London:
    “According to a report published today by the London School of Economics, which backs up months of research by this newspaper, “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude”

  • gfgwgc says:

    I think hillbilly is completely accurate and honest in some of his remarks. Yes, the US Administration is aware of Pakistan’s “double game” and has used those very words to criticize Pakistan in the past. Yes, Pakistan is no “ally” of the United States. The word “ally” is to assuage the pride of the Pakistani people and provide their leadership with a fig leaf. Fact is, the US has been at war with Pakistan or, at the very least, is a player in its civil war. He is also right in his assessment that Pakistani nukes have made a difference thus far in how Pakistan has been dealt with by its antagonists.
    Having said that, using nukes against Israel is a completely suicidal option and even the Pakistani leadership knows that. Nukes can help maintain an uneasy status quo but they are not offensive weapons. Finally, I agree with Charu’s assessment that the world’s patience with Pakistan is finite and when that point comes, China will not be a factor.

  • The relationship between US and Paki is complex.
    To be sure on some level there is tremondous trust
    between them. Paki is a Nuclear state and US fires
    missiles into its netherlands. That takes trust on
    both sides.
    On the other hand what motive does Paki have in
    double dealing the US with the Taliban?
    We exposed the ISI /Taliban connection on
    4/03/2009 02:22:00 AM
    Fully understanding the paradigm could lead
    to solutions.
    The SysAdmin part is trying to connect the
    gap to the core on a Fast track, and that volume
    of funding leads to some unintended consequences. They have the tools to win hearts and minds, but do they have the time for the learning curve and testing.

  • John Abraham says:

    Correction in my previous post:
    He(Ahmed Rashid) is a Pakistani who interviewed Taliban for nearly 2-3 decades.
    Actually it should read: He(Ahmed Rashid) is a Pakistani who interviewed Taliban(Mujaheddin before 1992) for nearly 2-3 decades.

  • Charu says:

    The fondness for the ISI and Pakistan’s rogue military exhibited by US intelligence agencies and the Pentagon has puzzled Indian observers for a very long time. Yes, the Indians are prickly and are viewed in some circles as “arrogant” or proud; but so are the French and, for that matter, the Chinese. In the context of their colonized past and the post-WWII donning of the empire mantle by the US, some of the Indian actions may even be understandable. However, well before Nixon’s deep-felt animosity towards India, there was an undercurrent of visceral dislike by the CIA for their Indian counterparts. This came out loud and clear in portions of the published memoirs of the CIA station chief (Devlin) in the Congo in the 60’s.
    I recently came across a 2008 NYT article (thanks to pundita’s blog) that underscores the flip side of this abiding dislike/distrust of India; a deep “respect” for the Machiavellian abilities of the Pakistani intelligence service to the extent that the CIA station in Pakistan is accused of “going native” by CIA personnel in Afghanistan (
    I can understand why someone might admire and respect the Mossad for frequently crossing the “line” as they face an existential threat from living in a hostile neighborhood. But Pakistan is, and always has been, the threat to its South Asian neighborhood since its formation; usurping the disruptive role played earlier by the Prussian military leadership in Europe and the Imperial Japanese war machine in Asia. It is inconceivable that any American operative might have respected the “abilities” of latter; which makes the unconcealed fondness for the Pakistani military and its ISI, who are actively undermining US policy in Afghanistan and killing American soldiers there, all the more puzzling.

  • Charley says:

    I have asked this before. Is there any precedent to our letting some country be involved in the killing of our troops and rationalize that country’s actions as somehow necessary? It boggles the mind what we have allowed Pakistan to get away with. Will the administration’s actions not be classified as a crime at some later date (imagine another 9/11 type event traced back to Pakistan)? It seems to be keeping H Clinton awake at nights, but no action seems to be taken.

  • Jay says:

    Solution is both complex and simple. Stop arming pakistan.. find a way to secure the nukes. and arrest the military leadership on most of the levels and spend the aid under tight control. In any case dont let iran, pak, china and n.korea form an axis.. they all share a border and would be impossible to control. So controlling & managing the pak military is the key. thats very simple.. So I think obama is playing the nice game of cat and mouse with pak army. he is not dumb though i cant say the same about his generals short sighted goals…
    also, the mineral deposit could bring the much needed money for afgan reconstruction and hope to the afgan people. But the money and management of the wealth can’t be left with the afgan government. US should make sure that the money goes to afgan people and that could extend the NATA’s involvement there.

  • Bing says:

    Looks like the Paks weren’t kidding when they said that there are “good” and “bad” Taliban. The “good” Taliban are simply those with pay stubs from the ISI!
    Pakistan’s close relationship with the Afghan Taliban notwithstanding, the accuracy of the details in the report very much depends if the Taliban commanders interviewed in this report are part of the organization or are “former” Taliban or those in the periphery of the movement.
    We’ve already seen relying too heavily on Taliban commanders disowned by the organization’s top leaders is not worth the effort. If, however, this can be used to persuade some of the Taliban that their leadership is sold out to a foreign intelligence agency, I see the benefits.

  • Render says:

    If Hillbilly represents the Pakistani majority point of view, (I have little reason to believe that he doesn’t and 13 million reasons to believe that he does), then I must represent the American Jewish/Israeli lobby he’s complaining about…
    With that out of the way allow me to reassure you (Hillbilly) that if I controlled US politics Pakistan would have been an occupied nation by December of 2001. I have no fear of nor respect for your fizzlesticks practice nukes or your military that has never won a war, then or now.
    Allow me to clue you in on something else, nobody “controls”


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram