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'ISI provides funding, sanctuary to Taliban'

'ISI provides funding, sanctuary to Taliban'

Pakistan's ISI supports the Taliban in Afghanistan on a scale much larger than previously thought.

London: Pakistan's powerful ISI provides funding, training and sanctuary to Taliban in Afghanistan on a scale much larger than previously thought, a report claims and suggests that the spy agency may be backing the insurgents to undermine Indian influence in the war-torn country.

The report by the London School of Economics (LSE), based on interviews with nine Taliban commanders in Afghanistan between February and May this year, says the support for the Afghan Taliban was "official ISI policy".

"Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement," Matt Waldman, author of the report who is also a fellow at Harvard University, says.

Taliban field commanders interviewed for the report suggested that ISI intelligence agents even attend Taliban supreme council meetings.

"Some alleged that the ISI agents had even attended meetings of the Taliban's top leadership council, the so-called Quetta shura. They claim that by backing the insurgents Pakistan's security service is trying to undermine Indian influence in Afghanistan," BBC quoted the report as saying.

India is carrying out a number of developmental projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan views New Delhi's involvement in reconstruction activities there undermines its influence.

India's assets in the war-torn country have been targeted several times and the Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked twice. However, India has made it clear that it will continue with its activities.

Waldman says there is real evidence of extensive co-operation between the ISI and the Taliban. He also argues that previous studies significantly "underestimated" the influence that Pakistan's ISI exerts over the Taliban.

More worries for USA

Another report says according to Senator John Kerry about 50 percent of the aid being given to Pakistan may be siphoned off to the corrupt elite of Pakistan.

This as the Obama administration prepares to start pumping billions of dollars promised under the Kerry Lugar Bill.

Kerry the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has raised his concerns in his letter to Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kerry wrote he fear that 50 percent of the aid that would go to the Pakistani government or local partners would be spent poorly.

first published:June 13, 2010, 19:56 IST