Tuesday 22 June 2010

More on Waldman and the ISI

Has the London School of Economics distanced itself from Matt Waldman's report, published last week (see below), claiming that the Taliban is 'run' by commanders, many of whom are agents of the Pakistan Intelligence Service, the ISI?
When the story broke a week ago the report itself was not available on the LSE's website, although selected journalists had been given prior access. Thus is was impossible to check the precise nature of the claims.
When it was finally published on the website of LSE's Crisis States Research Centre on Tuesday, the report was introduced with comments by Professor James Putzel, director of the Centre. "This report is based on research carried out in Afghanistan, including interviews with important Taliban commanders who clearly believe that they are being 'run' by Pakistan's intelligence service," he says.
He continues: "The prevalence of such beliefs among insurgents themselves and the critical stance they take towards the relationship between their leadership networks and elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence services may prove to be important as Afghans continue to explore the prospects for reaching a peace agreement."
The meaning of these two sentences is very different to the statements attributed to Waldman - and heard in the al-Jazeera interview below - in that Putzel is referring to the beliefs of Taliban commanders, rather than the fact of a relationship between them and the ISI.
Putzel also talks about 'elements' of the ISI, suggesting possibly a rogue faction, rather than emphasising - as Waldman did - that it was 'official' ISI policy to manage the Taliban.
Looking at the report itself, it appears to be more cautious in the way it reports the relationship between the Taliban and the ISI, stating merely that "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." This is uncontentious and widely known.
What is more controversial is the suggestion that the ISI is "represented" on the Quetta Shura or that Pakistan's President Zardari recently assured capture Taliban leaders of his continuing backing. On these points, more evidence please.

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