August 17th, 2007 04:49 EST
Pakistan Gave Military Aid to The Taliban
The Pakistani government gave substantial military support to the Taliban in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks, sending arms and soldiers to fight alongside the militant Afghan movement, according to newly released US official documents.
Islamabad has acknowledged diplomatic and economic links with the Taliban but has denied direct military support. The US intelligence and state department documents, released under the country`s freedom of information act, show that Washington believed otherwise.
The suspicion has lingered that some elements of Pakistani intelligence are still protecting the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies in the autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. US officials have warned they might take direct military action without Islamabad`s approval.
Among the documents acquired by the National Security Archive, an independent group pressing for government transparency, is a confidential memo sent in November 1996, from intelligence report from Islamabad to the Defence Intelligence Agency in Washington, describing how Pakistan`s paramilitary Frontier Corps was operating across the border.
The Frontier Corps are recruited from the Pashtun population in the tribal areas, but commanded by officers from the regular Pakistani army.
"For Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," a state department briefing paper, dated January 1997, said, adding: "Many Pakistanis claim they detest the Taliban brand of Islam, noting that it might infect Pakistan, but this apparently is a problem for another day."
Pakistan`s president, Pervez Musharraf, is under intense pressure from the spread of Taliban extremist influence in his own country, and admitted on Sunday that the movement had support from his side of the border.
"The documents illustrate that throughout the 1990`s the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] considered Islamic extremists to be foreign policy assets," Barbara Elias, a National Security Archive researcher, said. "But they succeeded ultimately in creating a Pakistani Taliban. Those years of fuelling insurgents created something that now directly threatens Islamabad."
No one was available for comment at the Pakistani embassy in London yesterday. Privately, Pakistani officials concede that the ISI was instrumental in turning the Taliban into an organised force before 2001, but claim that the committed Islamists in the ISI`s ranks have been purged.
Those claims are being viewed increasingly critically in Washington, due to Islamabad`s failure to uproot Taliban and al-Qaida militants in tribal regions, like Waziristan. Bush administration hawks and the Democratic presidential contender, Barack Obama, have called for direct US military action in the region.
Source:Julian Borger, diplomatic editor /
Thursday August 16, 2007 The Guardian (UK)