Pakistan Maintains Relationship With Afghan Taliban, Harvard Researcher Says : The Two-Way Pakistan provides arms and ammunition and strategic advice to the Afghan Taliban, a Harvard researcher reports.

Pakistan Maintains Relationship With Afghan Taliban, Harvard Researcher Says

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Pakistan's military intelligence wing, the ISI, is directing, funding, arming and training the Afghan Taliban. That's the conclusion of a new report from Harvard researcher Matt Waldman. He conducted interviews with insurgent field commanders, former senior Taliban officials, Afghan elders and tribal leaders. His conclusion, Pakistan's ISI is deeply entwined with the Taliban, and that poses a problem for U.S. policy with its ally, Pakistan.

Matt Waldman joins us to talk about his report. And why don't you describe how entrenched you believe Pakistan's intelligence unit, the ISI, is with the Afghan Taliban?

P: Well, according to the interviews, there's very significant levels of support being provided by the ISI to the Taliban and that ranges from arms and ammunition to financial support. There is also belief that this is the official policy of the agency. The Taliban figures that I spoke to seem to think that this really wasn't an issue. This was beyond the base, as it were.

And, finally, I think the commanders I spoke to and many others believe that the ISI had significant influence both in terms of operations in the field and at a strategic level, right to the senior leadership of the movement.

BLOCK: You also describe an alleged visit by Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, to see senior Taliban prisoners in Pakistan this year. What do you hear about that?

P: From a very credible source, there is a senior figure in the Taliban movement. I heard that President Zardari visited the prison where some 50 or so Taliban leaders were held. Probably around 30 had been arrested quite recently. And apparently at that meeting he said that he supported insurgents, that they were under a lot of pressure from America and therefore they had to make the arrests.

But that prisoners would be released in due course. And indeed - and I think most analysts agree with this, a number of senior Taliban figures were released earlier this year. And I think, you know, real questions have to be asked about why that took place.

BLOCK: Pakistan has been vehement in responding to your report. It's called it rubbish and wild accusations. What do you say to that?

P: Well, these aren't wild accusations. These are the findings, a report that involved over 50 interviews. Ten former insurgents were interviewed, 10 former senior officials of the Taliban regime, and over 30 other individuals who were all informed about the insurgency, including Western diplomats. I think it doesn't come as a surprise to me that there have been these denials. But I do think that there needs to be a great deal more honesty on all sides about what is going on and how we ultimately address the underlying causes of these kinds of activities.

BLOCK: Matt Waldman, thank you very much.

P: My pleasure.

BLOCK: Matt Waldman is a fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. His report, "The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship Between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan insurgents" is published by the London School of Economics.

BLOCK: We have seen the report and we do not agree with its conclusions. Pakistan and the United States are partners in a difficult fight against extremists who constantly target innocent people. We are committed to working with the Pakistanis in this struggle.

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