Afghan intel chief: Pakistan spies support Taliban

Many Taliban militants fled to Pakistan’s border area from Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

KABUL (AP) âÄî Afghanistan’s intelligence chief accused Pakistan’s spy agency of helping Taliban militants carry out attacks in his country, highlighting one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama administration as it prepared Thursday to launch a new strategy for the Afghan conflict. Many Taliban militants fled to Pakistan’s border area from Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, finding a sanctuary that allowed them to mount cross-border attacks that have destabilized Afghanistan and jeopardized international efforts to rebuild the country. President Barack Obama plans to dispatch 4,000 more U.S. troops along with hundreds of civilian advisers and will recommend increasing aid to Pakistan so long as leaders there confront militancy, people familiar with the forthcoming plan said Thursday. The latest additions, to be announced Friday, would follow Obama’s decision to add 17,000 troops to the flagging war this year. Obama called the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday to brief them on the plan, their offices said. Many believe that even with a stepped-up U.S. effort, chances for success are slim unless Pakistan effectively cracks down on Taliban and al-Qaida militants operating from its territory. The U.S. and Afghanistan have repeatedly called on Pakistan to sever all links with the Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s with significant support from Pakistan’s military intelligence agency âÄî known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Pakistan’s government insists it no longer supports the militant group, but the country’s civilian leaders have limited control over the agency. Afghanistan’s intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament Wednesday that the spy agency provides support to the Taliban leadership council in the Pakistani city of Quetta headed by the group’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces. The New York Times reported that Pakistani spy operatives provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders, with evidence of the ties coming from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The report cited American, Pakistani and other security officials who spoke anonymously because they were discussing confidential intelligence information. Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst, told AP Television that he believes the ISI may have links in Afghanistan. But he said that does not necessarily mean it is supporting the Taliban or is giving them material assistance. He said the ISI maintains contacts with militants in order to monitor their activities, “because it is itself being hit by the Taliban.” A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad said Pakistani assistance to the Taliban has declined since 2001 but that links persist. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media. Saleh, the Afghan spy chief, criticized Pakistani officials for denying that Taliban leaders are based in the country. He said the Pakistanis view militants on their border as “a kind of weapon” that can be used in both Afghanistan and India. “The Pakistani government is making excuses by saying these areas are out of their control,” said Saleh. Afghanistan has accused Pakistan’s spy service or militants based in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas of being behind several major attacks in Kabul, including the bombing of the Indian Embassy last July, an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April and an assault on the luxury Serena Hotel in January 2008. By focusing the blame on militants in Pakistan, Saleh reinforced recent remarks by Obama, who has warned that militants using Pakistani territory to launch attacks should not be allowed free reign. Many of the additional troops that Obama has pledged to send to Afghanistan will be deployed in the south near the border with Pakistan âÄî the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, where militants attacked a police checkpoint Thursday, killing nine policemen, the Interior Ministry said. Another officer was killed and two were wounded in a search operation the police launched after the attack, said the deputy provincial police chief Kamal Uddin. Corruption also has been a significant issue at the highest levels of government, with reports that Karzai’s relatives have profited from their family connections âÄî charges they denied. Karzai said Thursday that the accusations were false and politically motivated. He outlined his own savings and assets to head off any corruption allegations that might be leveled against him in the run-up to presidential elections this year. Karzai said he has about $10,000 in a bank in Frankfurt, Germany, and that his wife has jewelry worth about the same amount. He said his salary is only about $500 per month. “I have no private car, no land, no garden, no house,” Karzai told a news conference. ___ Abbot reported from Kabul and Brummitt from Islamabad. Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah in Kabul, Stephen Graham in Islamabad and Anne Gearan and Pamela Hess in Washington contributed to this report.