Pakistan spy agency denies Taliban link

Pakistan's intelligence agency today denied claims that they secretly aid the Taliban, detailed in leaked US military reports.

The reports, released by the online whistle-blower Wikileaks, appear to support what many observers have already claimed, that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) organisation initially backed the Taliban as allies in Afghanistan against any Indian expansion there - and still continue to support them.

They also raised new questions about whether the West can succeed in convincing Pakistan to sever its historical links to the Taliban and deny them sanctuary along the Afghan border.

The US has given Pakistan billions in military aid since 2001 to enlist its cooperation.

But the leaked reports, which cover a period from January 2004 to December 2009, suggest that current and former officials from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency have met directly with the Taliban to co-ordinate attacks in Afghanistan.

A senior ISI official, who did not want to be identified, denied the allegations, saying they were from raw intelligence reports that had not been verified and were meant to impugn the reputation of the spy agency.

In one report from March 2008, the ISI is alleged to have ordered Siraj Haqqani, a prominent militant based in north-western Pakistan, to kill workers from archenemy India who are building roads in Afghanistan.

In another from March 2007, the ISI is alleged to have given Jalaluddin Haqqani, Siraj's father, 1,000 motorcycles to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

While these reports, and many of the other 91,000 released by Wikileaks, cannot be independently verified, the Haqqanis run a military network based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area that is believed to have close ties with the ISI.

Other reports mention former ISI officials, including Hamid Gul, who headed the agency in the late 1980s when Pakistan and the US were supporting Islamist militants in their fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

In one report, Gul, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Taliban, is alleged to have dispatched three men in December 2006 to carry out attacks in Afghanistan's capital.

"Reportedly Gul's final comment to the three individuals was to make the snow warm in Kabul, basically telling them to set Kabul aflame," said the report.

Gul, who appeared multiple times throughout the reports, denied allegations that he was working with the Taliban, saying "these leaked documents against me are fiction and nothing else."

The US has had little success convincing Pakistan to target Afghan Taliban holed up in the country, especially members of the Haqqani network, which the US military considers the most dangerous militant group in Afghanistan.

Pakistan helped the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Although the government renounced the group in 2001 under US pressure, many analysts believe Pakistan refuses to sever links with the Taliban because it believes it could be a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

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