Today, Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent Alex Rodriguez, reporting from Islamabad, highlights a new report by Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, published by The London School of Economics and Political Science.
The discussion paper concludes that "Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency not only funds and trains Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, but also maintains its own representation on the insurgency's leadership council," he reports.
Waldman, who used to be the head of policy and advocacy for Oxfam International in Afghanistan, notes that "many accounts of the Afghan conflict misapprehend the nature of the relationship between Pakistan's security services and the insurgency."
The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with some assistance provided by elements within, or linked to, Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI) or military. Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In their words, this is 'as clear as the sun in the sky'.
Directly or indirectly the ISI appears to exert significant influence on the strategic decision-making and field operations of the Taliban; and has even greater sway over Haqqani insurgents. According to both Taliban and Haqqani commanders, it controls the most violent insurgent units, some of which appear to be based in Pakistan.
Insurgent commanders confirmed that the ISI are even represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani command council. Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the Taliban's strategic autonomy, precluding steps towards talks with the Afghan government through recent arrests.
Rodriguez sought official comment from Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athat Abbas. His reply?
I consider this a highly speculative and provocative report. I question the authenticity and credibility of this so-called research. … It's not worthy of any response.