Secret report: Taliban backed by Pakistan, gaining ground
The BBC says it has seen what it calls a "secret NATO report" (referred to in other media accounts as a "secret US military report"), based on some 4,000 detainee interrogations in Afghanistan, that finds the Taliban continue to be heavily backed by Pakistan, are confident they can win the Afghan war, and are gaining popular support at the expense of the Kabul government. The report, "The State of the Taliban 2012," portrays the Taliban as being under the virtual direction of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but resenting that control. According to published excerpts, the report finds that "Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact."
The report, said to be prepared by a US special operations unit called Task Force 3-10, warns: "In the last year, there has been unprecedented interest, even from [Afghan government] members, in joining the insurgent cause. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over [the Afghan government], usually as a result of government corruption, ethnic bias and lack of connection with local religious and tribal leaders. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption."
The report also finds: "Reflections from detainees indicate that Pakistan's manipulation of Taliban senior leadership continues unabated. The Taliban themselves do not trust Pakistan, yet there is a widespread acceptance of the status quo in lieu of realistic alternatives... Senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani, maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of ISI headquarters in Islamabad." It quotes a senior al-Qaeda detainee as saying: "Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can't [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching."*
Official response has only been slightly circumspect. "We have long been concerned about ties between elements of the ISI and some extremist networks," said Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, adding (somewhat implausibly) that the Defense Department had not yet seen the report.
A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman called the accusations "ridiculous". "We are committed to non-interference in Afghanistan and expect all other states to strictly adhere to this principle," Abdul Basit told the BBC. (BBC News, The Guardian, Feb. 1)