New report accuses Pakistan’s ISI of backing Afghan insurgents

June 13, 2010

us soldiersAccording to a new report published by the London School of Economics, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement’s leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations.

The ISI has long been accused of backing the Taliban – an accusation Pakistan denies, saying this would make no sense when it is already fighting a bloody campaign against Islamist militants at home. But the report is worth reading for its wealth of detail on the perceptions held by Taliban commanders interviewed in the field. You can see the Reuters story on the report here and the full document (pdf) here.

The report, based on interviews with Taliban commanders, former senior Taliban ministers and Western and Afghan security officials, says research strongly suggested support for the Taliban was the “official policy” of the ISI. ”Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude,” it says.  Interviews with Taliban commanders ”suggest that Pakistan continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies.”

“These accounts were corroborated by former Taliban ministers, a Western analyst and a senior U.N. official based in Kabul, who said the Taliban largely depend on funding from the ISI and groups in Gulf countries,” the report, which was dismissed by Pakistani officials as spurious and unfounded, says.

Almost all of the Taliban commanders interviewed in the report believed the ISI was represented on the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s supreme leadership council which Washington says is based in Pakistan. “Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the (Quetta) Shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement.”

“Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke US counter-measures. However, the powerful role of the ISI, and parts of the Pakistani military, suggests that progress against the Afghan insurgency, or towards political engagement, requires their support. The only sure way to secure such cooperation is to address the fundamental causes of Pakistan’s insecurity, especially its latent and enduring conflict with India,” it says.

As discussed many times on this blog, most recently here, Pakistan is unlikely to act decisively against the Afghan Taliban without reassurances of a scaling back of India’s presence in Afghanistan.  It may have some ability to convince Afghan Taliban leaders to join peace talks by leaning on those who are based in Pakistan, or whose families live there, as and when it judges the timing is right.

But this influence does not extend to full control over the Taliban – as the book by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s last ambassador to Islamabad, testifies, there is little love lost between the movement and Pakistan.  The report itself quoted a political analyst in Kandahar as saying that, ‘The Taliban is obliged to accept Pakistan’s demands – it needs their support, but is not their puppet.”

I caught up with the report’s author, Matt Waldman, in London, for a brief chat to find out what other views he had picked up from his interviews with Taliban commanders in the field.

He said some, but not all, the commanders he spoke to said the ISI support was given so as to undermine Indian influence in Afghanistan. But on the whole they appeared to be relatively unaware of the big geopolitical issues that are believed to drive Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban. There had been no mention, for example, of some of the accusations that Pakistan levels against India, of using its presence in Afghanistan to fund separatists in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, or of working through Afghan intelligence to support the Pakistani Taliban – allegations New Delhi denies.

Rather, the commanders were focused on driving out foreign forces from Afghanistan, restoring sharia law and obtaining justice and security.  They did not  talk about the Taliban regaining power, or about fighting for them to have the right to run particular ministries; nor indeed about the position they might seek for their leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.  ”They didn’t talk about the Taliban regaining the reins of government,” he said.

Nor was there any sign of al Qaeda being a significant influence. None expressed any affection for al Qaeda and some acknowledged its role in the Taliban’s downfall in 2001. The United States said it decided to overthrow the Taliban in 2001 after their government had refused to hand over to Washington Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Waldman said those he spoke to wanted peace, but not at any cost. While he detected some reluctance to see an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces — which could precipitate a civil war — the massive presence of troops was a major problem.  Some analysts say any withdrawal of foreign troops could lead to renewed fighting between non-Pashtuns once grouped in the former Northern Alliance and the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Waldman however said that, “I never found any sort of hostility towards other ethnic groups.”

The commanders he spoke to wanted clean and honest government and the separation of men and women, including at work. They were happy to see girls’ education, but only up to a certain age. They were also well aware of factors running in their favour, including the unpopularity of the government and divisions in the international community about the Afghan war. “Although they are tired and war-weary, they feel a level of confidence in the eventual outcome,” he said.

He also noted that many of the factors driving the insurgency were domestic – including a sense that the government in Kabul was abusing its power through “predatory and exclusionary policies”  and a perception of aggression by foreign forces against the people of Afghanistan.  This suggested that taking the ISI out of the equation would not be enough to end the insurgency – although the report also said that any peace talks with the Afghan government would not succeed  without ISI support. “If you took the ISI out, it might make it possible to end the insurgency. But it does not end the insurgency.”





“New report accuses Pakistan’s ISI of backing Afghan insurgents”.

HIS TACTICS are OBVIOUS—TO DISTRACT THE POSTERS INTO DEFENDING LIES ABOUT INDIA. SIMPLY IGNORE him AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE on India-related issues. One liners are enough. NO micro details are needed. Because there is no way you can deal with a propagandist. Only Reuter moderator can do that job.

much of the issue mentioned above by Mirza are either internal to India, non-existent at this point and paranoia of Pakistan(is)in other cases. ABOVE ALL THEY ARE NOT RELEVANT TO THE BLOG.

mirzausman needs SHRINK not discussion on this.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive


BTW, didn’t an operation similar to blue star, happen in the Red mosque in Islamabad a couple of years ago, when the holy mosque was defiled by the Pak army? The last time I checked, the perpetrator of that operation was playing golf & giving lectures in london. How come no ‘payback’ there?
–posted by Mortal

@Not analogous. He lost his ‘presidency’, lost his popularity and lives in self-imposed exile. Req Mosque – not equivalent to the holiest temple in sikh religion. artillery army and tanks not equivalent to special forces. death toll not remotely close, no indiscriminate residential artillery , no state-sponsored pogrom of 5000+. sorry.
–Posted by Mirzausman

—Mortal: Look at Mirza’s number crunching and relative “holiness” of the shrine. I am really laughing here. Well even by his own low standards, he should stop shedding tears over Babri Masjid which was not even functional at the time. This also means that 1971 genocide of Bengalis by Pakistan can be ignored since 3million bengalis is still less than the genocide of 6 millions Jews. That also means, Indians can ignore and shut their mouth on innocents killed in riots, including Mirza’s favorite topic operation blue star and 1984 riots, since the # is no where near 3 million bengali killed by Pakistan.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@”Look at Mirza’s number crunching and relative “holiness” of the shrine. I am really laughing here” Posted by RajeevK

We’ve seen it all Rajeev, the double-standards, hypocricy, nonsensical finger-pointing, bigotry & shedding of crocodile tears. Nothing new there!

One can’t really do anything about a phsychopath inventing reasons to hate you!

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

Rajeev, Discussion forums are not changing rooms of ballroom dance clubs where the chukka that ingests the most $e_men gets the most accolades. So much for democratic principles of expression. You have reached the heights of cultism by your sorry attempt to suppress dissent. I am providing years of research (by someone else) and historical facts on this blog and you have the audacity to complain.

The relevancy of my previous post couldn’t be simpler

A pattern of historic and contemporary Indian Hegemony = Destabilized South Asia including afghanistan

Sorry, this did not have the same level of relevancy as your stories about dance perouettes and triple-axle landings into other men’s laps.

One of the reasons Myra stopped regulating is because she was accused by Indians of … you guessed it ISI connections. Now you want the respected journalist back to blacklist pakistanis commenting on pakistan-tagged posts? This is the web not indian ‘administered’ kashmir.

I also enjoyed the fact that immediately after your boycott, you address one of my many interesting posts.


Posted by mirzausman | Report as abusive

Disappointing news for Indian fanboys:

India is nowhere in the picture (literally) in comparison to Pakistan in this photo contest (Postcards from Hell):

Check it out: 10/06/21/postcards_from_hell?page=0,10

And this is what the description reads:

“Pakistan has more than once been described as the world’s most dangerous country. Its wild northern reaches remain host to various branches of the Pakistani Taliban and likely to al Qaeda (Osama bin Laden is thought to be among them), while other militant groups make gains closer to urban areas. The bomb that went off here left six dead in Quetta, in the country’s southwest. More than 3 million Pakistani civilians were displaced by “counterinsurgency” operations in 2009 — the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari’s democratically elected government looks hapless — unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear-armed military obsessed with planning for a war with India, or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban.”

PS: I’m surprised that they did not find any entry from India in all those 60 photos from 60 different countries.

Posted by Seth09 | Report as abusive

“PS: I’m surprised that they did not find any entry from India in all those 60 photos from 60 different countries.”

An afterthought,

May be photographers’ visa was rejected by cunning Indian government and they were not resourceful enough to take the water-route in a dinghy and “shoot” the poor people indiscriminately.

Posted by Seth09 | Report as abusive

1. @Now you want the respected journalist back to blacklist pakistanis commenting on pakistan-tagged posts? This is the web not indian ‘administered’ kashmir.”
—-whining! This blog is Reuters not Reformistan nor is it POK. I know Myra;s blogs rules. You are doing what she asked not to do in the past. No using Reuters for personal agendas, which exactly u r doing.
2. If you cannot post the relevant stuff, keep your cherry picked and stolen research at your website. Needy will visit you.
3. @Indian Hegemony: Go google retired Pakistan Air Marshal Asghar Khan (in Dawn) who did not mince words and clearly stated that Pakistan attacked India in each time, including 1971.
4. @Discussion forums are not changing rooms of ballroom dance clubs where the chukka that ingests the most $e_men gets the most accolades.”
—lol…you are such a punk. Listen, I don’t take ur pakistani sisters to such places. Nor do I need to know your tastes. That you are gay is sufficient. Are u provoking me that I stick bamboo in ur a$$ and stick it till ur tonsils that you cannot turn to watch the action behind you? Drop this BS—u started u stop. What’s the Afghan # u r serving now? 30million could mean your generations will have to do your job.
5. Did you watch India-Pakistan cricket match? Harbahjan Singh’s six was so sweet. Ahem!

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive


@I also enjoyed the fact that immediately after your boycott, you address one of my many interesting posts.”
—that’s right—-one of many. I cherry picked. lol…. how about commenting on substance rather than this celebration?

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Failed states index. Pakistan = #10, India = #87

It’s not how many separatist or insurgent movements a country has, but how effective they are that matters. The Naxalites may have a large presence in India, but nowhere were they ever administering districts like the Taliban were in Swat.

More importantly for the rest of us, Indian instability is contained inside India. Insurgents from India aren’t killing Westerners and the citizens of neighbouring countries. This is not the case with Pakistan.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Failed states index. Pakistan = #10, India = #87

Posted by kEiThZ |

Without American/ Western dollars…pakistan would have beaten Somalia to dust and rushed way ahead of Somalia to be numero uno.

Mullahusman is indulging in coping strategies to avoid digesting this reality.

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

^ The issue at hand isn’t how unstable Pakistan is. Nobody really cared about Somalia until its problems started impacting the rest of the world. ie Al-Shabaab.

If Pakistan wasn’t supporting groups that were attempting to de-stabilize Afghanistan and/or India (via Kashmir in particular), nobody would really be bothered, even if they devolved into another Somalia.

Unfortunately, the more they fail, the more they try to drag their neighbours down with them while threatening global peace and security (for example through proliferation). And this is sadly, what makes them relevant.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Kieth, I am pretty sure I recall an ill-fated intervention in Somalia in the 90s before Al-shabab was on anyone’s radar. The western rescue party in shining armor were rescued themselves by those ungrateful evil Pakistanisn.

I understand though. Anything older than last week is ancient history.

Posted by tupak_shakir | Report as abusive

Well I do not agree with these things, not like that, ISI behind these things is that,, Pakistan’s defense forces including army, air force and navy personal have been killed by martyred by the terrorists.Over 5000 of our security personal have been killed by terrorists.Important military installations including GHQ have been targeted. Compounds belonging to our intelligence agencies have been bombed in many major cites across the country. Let us not forget the FC and other law enforcement’s agencies personal who laid down their lives in this fight.

Posted by saim | Report as abusive

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