Nato’s damaging report

Nato Forces

The charge of the ISI cooperating with the Afghan Taliban has been dug up again.

The Times and BBC have brought to light a secret Nato report, which claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agency is “intimately involved” in the insurgency and “senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise them on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the government of Pakistan”. The report has been dismissed by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as “old wine, in even older bottles” and termed by the Foreign Office spokesman as “not worth commenting” on. It might be, as stated by Nato-led Isaf spokesman Lt-Colonel Jimmie Cummings, a mere compilation of the information extracted during the interrogation of 4,000 captured Taliban. Yet, its leak at a time when Ms Khar was on a visit to Kabul to mend Pak-Afghan relations, that had soured after Kabul blamed the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani on Islamabad, lends it an intriguing colour.

The Pentagon, not one to miss an opportunity, delivered the expected ‘we told you so’ reaction. Its spokesman Capt John Kirby said that the US had “long-standing concerns” over links between some sections of the ISI and the Taliban. He referred to Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement, that there was a problem with sanctuary being provided to such elements inside Pakistan.

Notwithstanding Colonel Cummings’ apologetic view of the report that it is ‘not even an analysis’ but a mere collection of information extracted from Taliban prisoners, its leakage provided the British daily Times a peg to hang the ISI on, accusing it of being “considerably more villainous, even, than the Taliban itself”. The Pentagon’s reaction underlines the point that the improvement in Pak-US relations under progress, will stall until such time as these misunderstandings have been ironed out. Leaving the question of Pak-US bilateral ties apart, the Americans should be worried by the Taliban claim that their “strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact”. The hundreds of billions they spent in the hope of decimating the Taliban appeared to be going waste. Their military action seems to have led to a more forceful resurgence of the elements opposed to US policies.

One would hope that Ms Khar’s assurance that Pakistan has no hidden agenda in Afghanistan would have convinced the Afghan leadership, including President Hamid Karzai whom she also met in Kabul on Wednesday, of Pakistan’s sincerity towards the Afghans. All are looking for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution of the current troubles plaguing the country; the Nato report and its leakage are only an attempt to fish in troubled waters that will be of little avail.- Nation