Secret files reveal Taliban will retake control of Afghanistan when NATO troops withdraw

Will Longbottom – Daily Mail February 1, 2012

A secret U.S. military report claims the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control over Afghanistan when NATO-led forces withdraw from the country.

The State of the Taliban report, compiled by U.S. forces, said Pakistan’s powerful security agency – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – was assisting the Taliban in directing attacks against foreign forces.

It is a damning assessment of the war, now dragging into its eleventh year and which has already seen nearly 3,000 service personnel killed – 1,846 U.S. and 390 British

The report could heap further pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.S. President Barack Obama, as they face strengthened calls to withdraw troops earlier.

It could also reinforce the view of Taliban hardliners that the group should not negotiate peace with the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai’s unpopular government while in a position of strength.

The report, seen by The Times newspaper, said: ‘Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact.

‘Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban.’

It was compiled from the interrogation of more than 4,000 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

The detainees have revealed that Pakistan employs a network of spies and go-betweens to give strategic advice to the Taliban, The Times reported.

‘The Government of Pakistan remains intimately involved with the Taliban,’ the report says.

‘ISI is thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel.

‘Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the Government of Pakistan.’

Militant groups on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan provide electronics, explosives and suicide vests to the Taliban, with one detainee claiming: ‘The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad.’

The allegations have drawn a strong response from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

Spokesman Abdul Basit said: ‘This is frivolous, to put it mildly. We are committed to non-interference in Afghanistan.’

Large swathes of Afghanistan have already been handed back to Afghan security forces, with the last foreign combat troops due to leave by the end of 2014.

But many Afghans doubt their army, security forces or police will be able to take firm control of one of the world’s most volatile countries once foreign combat troops leave.

The accusations will likely further strain ties between the West and Islamabad, which has long denied backing militant groups seeking to topple the U.s.-backed government in Kabul.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is visiting Kabul today on a mission to repair strained diplomatic ties with Afghanistan’s government and to meet Karzai to discuss possible peace talks with the Taliban.

Ties between Pakistan and the U.S. are at a low after a series of setbacks since the raid that Osama bin Laden in May last year and humiliated Pakistan’s powerful generals.

A cross-border NATO air strike in November which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers deepened the crisis, prompting Islamabad to suspend supply routes into Afghanistan.

Islamabad has resisted U.S. pressure to after insurgent groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, arguing the West overlooks complex realities on the ground.

The Pentagon has long been concerned over perceived ties between elements of the ISI and extremist networks.

Despite the presence of 100,000 foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, according to the UN.

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced it would open a political office in the Qatari capital Doha to hold peace talks with the U.S.

But there have also efforts to set up talks in Saudi Arabia because Mr Karzai believes his government could be sidelined.

The report also suggests the Taliban has begun moderating its hardline Islamist stance in a bid to win over the Afghan people.