A critical perspective on the LSE report on the Taliban-ISI alliance – by Shiraz Paracha

The London School of Economics’ (LSE) recent report on the alleged links between the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban is yet another proof of an unholy alliance, in which Western secret services, the mainstream Western media and some Western academic institutions are partners.

[Read the LSE report in full here (pdf)]

The report is based on a research conducted by a British researcher Matt Waldman, who has been closely linked with the British political and defense establishment. He carried out his research in the early 2010 and conducted interviews in Afghanistan apparently with the help and support of his NATO handlers.

Waldman’s one-sided and highly biased report refers to several unnamed single sources. Accusations against Pakistan are mostly based on hearsay.

The report also mentions an alleged meeting between the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the Taliban prisoners. The report alleges that President Zardari praised the Taliban. It implies that the President encouraged the Taliban to harm NATO interests in Afghanistan; however, the author fails to specify when and where exactly the alleged meeting took place. He just mentions that the meeting was held at an unnamed Pakistani prison. His sources are some unknown Afghans.

The author made a very serious charge against the democratically elected President of Pakistan without checking facts and talking to the other side. Most of his sources are Western military officials and diplomats, and Afghans whose loyalties could be easily bought by NATO.

The report is widely published in the Western media, however, a leading British newspaper the Sunday Times was the first to take the credit that the report confirmed its own investigations about Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan.

The report raises questions about the motive of the author/authors and the time of the accusations.

The author Matt Waldman worked as a defense adviser for the British Liberal Democrat Party, which is now a junior partner in the British government. He advised his party on Iraq and Afghanistan when both countries were under the Western occupation.

Mr. Waldman is an analyst at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights in the United States. The Carr Center has links with the US military establishment. It was involved in helping the US military to formulate counter-insurgency measures in occupied Iraq. In fact, a senior figure at the Carr Center led the team that designed the counter-insurgency policy. Carr Center’s so open involvement with the US military forced a well-know American journalist to ask:

Should a human rights center at the nation’s most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counter-insurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?”

In 2006, the Carr Center assisted General David Petraeus in his plans to fight the Iraqi resistance. Under the policy, 25,000 American troops were to be sent to Iraq. It resulted in killings of hundreds of Iraqis, while thousands were arrested and tortured. During the military offensive in Baghdad, al-Anbar and Diyala provinces US troops made door-to-door break-ins and violated human rights of innocent Iraqi citizens. All of this was done under the intellectual guidance of academics at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard.

Sarah Sewell of the Carr Center had previously worked at the Pentagon. She helped General Petraeus to organize a ‘doctrine revision workshop’. That resulted in a document, the Marine Corps’  “war fighting doctrine.” It recommended how to “clear, hold and build”, how to use secret agents in calling in air strikes, even advise on public speaking and included many other suggestions on how to pacify Iraqi fighters.

It is interesting that another Carr Center academic, Matt Waldman, has published a report, this time the target is Pakistan. British and American secret services may have helped him in compiling the report. We shall wait and see what wonders this report may bring to Pakistan.

Another actor in the saga is the British newspaper the Sunday Times. The newspaper has published Matt Waldman’s report and wrote:

“According to a report published today by the London School of Economics, which backs up months of research by this newspaper, “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude” in Afghanistan”.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns the Sunday Times. Mr. Murdoch is a right-wing businessman who supports military action, and he seems to believe in the Western domination of the world. The Sunday Times is known for its links with the British security services the MI5 and the MI6. The newspaper’s ‘scoops’ often come from the British intelligence sources. The Sunday Times is also accused of a very clear pro-Israeli bias, and its nasty and at times fabricated stories against Iran come from the British intelligence sources.

Recently, the Sunday Times reporters have been harassing Iran’s Press TV staff in London. The newspaper has been campaigning against Press TV because Press TV is an English language international TV channel that has been exposing the distortion and bias of the Western media.

Leading British journalists Yvonne Ridley and Andrew Gilligan and politicians like George Galloway, British MP, Derek Conway and Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth and many others work for Press TV. Obliviously, Press TV poses a challenge to the hegemony of the Western media. 

Press TV director for UK sent a letter to the British Police on 26 March, 2010 against the harassment by the Sunday Times. The letter says:

Dear Sgt Hermitage,

I am the company director of Press TV Ltd. I am reporting yet another politically motivated incident of harassment against me, this time by a Sunday Times reporter. You may see my email to the Sunday Times below for details. You may also see my colleague’s email below who suffered a similar incident at the same time by another reporter. I shall also send you my daughter’s statement once I receive it.

My family is still shaken by the incident, which took place last night at my home address.

I am kindly requesting you to ensure the protection of my family’s right to peace and enjoyment of their home and that this intrusion never takes place again. This is quite frankly ridiculous. My private home address has nothing to do with my work.

I shall not hesitate in contacting you if an incident like this takes place in the future. I thank you for your assistance and I wish for my family’s well-being to be safeguarded by the Metropolitan Police in whatever capacity possible for you.

Thank you.


Company Director 

The above letter shows that if a country or an organization does not subjugate to Western demands it can face the music.

The ISI of Pakistan may have been playing foul. The ISI MUST be held accountable for its wrongdoings; however, the ISI is not the only one.

All secret services break a law and, in fact, these shadowy organizations are one of the biggest threats to democracy. The recent murder of a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel by the Israeli secret service is one example of spy agencies’ illegal acts.

The CIA and its sister agencies had been accused of using drug money to fund the 1980s Afghan Jihad. Western secret services are also accused of bribing warlords in Afghanistan and Iraq. Media reports suggest that Western agencies have been involved in sectarian violence, kidnapping, torture and gross human rights violations around the world. Such accusations require fair and honest investigations.

Sometimes, I wonder if Pakistan or another country had sent its troops to keep peace in Northern Ireland against the wishes of the British government, what would be the reaction of the British society. It is for sure that in such a scenario, British academics and the media would demand that the MI5 and MI6 must do everything to kick out foreign peacekeepers from Northern Ireland.

But when Pakistanis or Afghans feel uncomfortable with the unwelcome and unwanted presence of the British and American troops in their lands, the same Western academia and the media consider it a crime!

Enlightened West follows and practices double standards. Therefore, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqi and for that matter anyone who is opposed to Western occupation and oppression can be easily branded as an enemy of democracy and even a terrorist!

Shiraz Paracha is an international journalist and analyst. He can be reached at:shiraz_paracha@hotmail.com

8 responses to “A critical perspective on the LSE report on the Taliban-ISI alliance – by Shiraz Paracha”

  1. This report must be true. No one disputes that the evilest of the evilest ISI is responsible for the destruction of the Pakistan society and being behind the genocides of the Ahmedi and Shia Muslims.

  2. The researcher Matt Waldman has applied a vague methodology and normally has taken third person respondent as source of information. I condemn his personal views about the President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari

  3. we all know that it was the ppp govt. which took a bold decision of launching an operation in swat valley and forced taliban to flee the area(the west cant even think of such a success against the militants in afghanistan).moreover,its the democratically elected govt. of peoples party which has given ”political ownership” to this war on terror.under musharaf rule the ”war on terror” was regarded by most pakistanis as the US war against the muslims .this view point has changed dramatically in the last 2 years .now a vast majority of pakistanis feel that its in the interest of pakistan to root out militancy 4m the country 4 the sake of our future generations.instead of being grateful to the present govt. 4 its successful operations against militants and getting the public support 4 the war ,its really sad 2 see that a malicious campaign is being run in the western media against pakistan’s democratically electected govt. and the president. mr.zardari’s life is already under serious threat by the ‘talibans’ as he openly condemns their actions and promises to wipe them out of our beloved country.His wife,benazir bhutto,also lost her life while challenging the forces of extremism in our country. why on earth the president of pakistan would go to meet taliban prisoners at some unknown place when he could easily send his message to them thru other sources(like,interior ministry,ministers,bureaucracy etc)?why the agencies would want president zaradri to negotiate with the talibans when it is known to all and sundry in pakistan that military establishment hates him (zardari) the most . a couple of weeks back ,the pakistani agencies even abducted president zardari’s close friend (riaz lalji) 4m karachi. political analysts have said that the abduction and the ”unhurt’ release of mr.lalji was a strong message to the president by the military junta. moreover,dealing with security comes under the domain of the federal govt. and not the presidency. in my humble pinion, the report of LSE accusing president zardari of sympathizing with the taliban is simply outrageous and i strongly condemn it. moreover,i urge PPP media wing and presidential spokesman,mr.babar, to register a strong protest against such baseless allegations .i salute the sacrifices rendered by our brave soldiers and the people of pakistan in the war against terrorism

  4. Until 2007, even President Karzai spared no occasion to depict Afghanistan as a victim of the ISI. Who can forget Karzai’s dramatic performance from December 2006, when Karzai made a famous tearful appeal for an end to Pakistan’s “murder of Afghan children”? Though Karzai seems to have found something agreeable about President Zardari and the post-2008 election Pakistan, other frontline Northern Alliance bosses continue to blame Pakistan for everything. Corruption, the drug-trade, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. All come from Pakistan. And everything from Pakistan, of course, is produced in a laboratory by the ISI.

    Essentially, Waldman’s report restates old allegations and sexes them up. It is really old wine, in a shiny new bottle. There is however one quite spectacularly novel thing about this report. It is a libelous and malicious attack on Pakistani democracy, beginning right at the top, with the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari.

    Waldman doesn’t libel President Zardari accidentally. By including his wild allegation of Zardari’s meetings with Taliban jailbirds in his abstract, he loudly proclaims that slurring Zardari, and by extension the Pakistani people, is part of the objective of the report. He states that, “President Zardari and a senior ISI official visited some 50 high-ranking Talibs who were held in a prison in a secret location in Pakistan”. He then describes how Zardari assured the arrested Taliban of his support, and their subsequent release in keeping with those assurances. The report’s allegations about President Zardari’s meetings with the Taliban leaders are derived from a single, unnamed, low- to mid-level Taliban field commander operating in Afghanistan. Any person with a pulse will be able to discern how ridiculous and malicious this allegation is. Yet by the time folks have a chance to consider its qualifications the damage will have been done.

    What makes Waldman’s attack on Zardari particularly toxic is that it serves no purpose other than to paint the last decent thing about Pakistan in Westerners’ eyes–Pakistani democracy–with the same colour as everything else here has been painted. That is immeasurably lethal, and its collateral damage is not just political, but economic too. Denials of the report’s claims from Farahnaz Ispahani, Farhatullah Babar and Gen Athar Abbas don’t go nearly far enough in countering Waldman’s defamatory work.

    Pakistan’s national security paradigm deserves to be discussed, dissected, and deconstructed by Pakistanis and friends of Pakistan that wish this country a more secure future. This country has been an insecure, fidgety, spasmodic, neurotic, and obsessive-compulsive neighbour. Pakistan’s military needs to be held to account for the money it spends, and the decisions it takes, by Pakistan’s elected representatives. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have spent far too much blood and treasure trying to manipulate the hearts and minds of people, in Pakistan, and abroad into wars that are unwinnable, unloseable, and unendable. They should be reigned in and become more focused on protecting the life and property of Pakistanis.

    When informed commentators, whether they are Pakistani, or not, write about Pakistan’s problems, good sense must prevail. Freedom of speech does not only apply to journalism, but to academic discourse too. Pakistanis should embrace the critical lens that is being placed on their country. Clearly, we have failed ourselves. It cannot hurt to have some help in understanding the mess we’ve created. Honest critical analysis of Pakistan should be welcomed.

    The difference between critical analysis and malicious slander however is quite stark. By deliberately targeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Matt Waldman has not simply bad-mouthed Mr Zardari. What Waldman has done is much worse. He has slandered the symbol of the Pakistani federation. One can’t be anything but certain that President Zardari has never visited Taliban leaders in jail. If that is a certainty, then so must be a lawsuit. Accusing the Pakistani president of meeting with international outlaws, to offer them his support is outrageous, and is designed to injure Pakistan. It must be resisted with the full power of Pakistan’s substantial legal human resources in courts of law in the United Kingdom. There is a big difference between accusing clandestine services of behaving badly and accusing the president of a country of aiding and abetting international outlaws. Without legal liability to deter it, this blurring of lines will become epidemic. Matt Waldman needs to be sued for libeling the President of Pakistan.

    Why Waldman must be sued

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010
    By Mosharraf Zaidi

  5. Reuters report.
    A report by London School of Economics has garnered a stream of news attention since its release yesterday, as well as some choice headlines, (The Sunday Times piece had my personal favorite headline, “Pakistan Puppet Masters Guide the Taliban Killers.” Seriously .) The report, written by Matt Waldman , a fellow at Harvard University, ultimately claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI , has a direct link with the Taliban in Afghanistan . However, unlike past assertions that “rogue elements” within the ISI were supporting the Taliban, Waldman instead argues that “this is a significant underestimation of the current role of the ISI in the Afghan insurgency.” According to Taliban commanders he interviewed, the ISI’s powerful role with the organization is “as clear as the sun in the sky.” He wrote, The Taliban-ISI relationship is founded on mutual benefit . The Taliban need external sanctuary, as well as military and logistical support to sustain their insurgency; the ISI believes that it needs a significant allied force in Afghanistan to maintain regional strength  and ‘strategic depth’ in their rivalry with India. I won’t go into an exhaustive post about the report, because frankly, it does point to assertions and suspicions that have been discussed and widely acknowledged for years – namely, that the ISI has supported insurgent fighters to fight proxy wars against India ( Lashkar-e-Taiba for one), and the agency wants to maintain “ strategic depth ” in Afghanistan because of rising Indian influence in the country. For both the ISI and the Pakistani military, India is and always has been Enemy Number One. And while the military has gone against the “Pakistani Taliban,” militants that have been targeting the state and Pakistani citizens, a similar operation against the “Afghan Taliban,” (the Haqqani Network, Hekmatyar) has not exactly materialized, despite U.S. pressures. But does this mean that the ISI-Taliban link is part of an “officially sanctioned policy”? Even Waldman isn’t 100% sure . 1 . While Waldman cites numerous academics and analysts (including Steve Coll, Ahmed Rashid, Bruce Reidel, and Seth Jones) to back his claims, his conclusions are essentially grounded in interviews  in or near Kabul and Kandahar , from February-May 2010 , with nine insurgent field commanders, ten former senior Taliban officials, twenty-two Afghan elders, tribal leaders, politicians and analysts; and thirteen foreign diplomats, experts and security officials. Interestingly, Waldman did not interview any former or current officials on the Pakistani side . As a result, the report is admittedly one-sided , with claims corroborated by numerous insurgents but not by any ISI agents or even anonymous sources “close to the ISI.” 2 . In the report, Waldman prefaces his own claims numerous times, even noting, “Given that the ISI and its operations are by their nature secret, the findings described below are based on interviews and cannot by conclusively verified .” Throughout the paper, the Harvard fellow consistently hedges his findings, using terms like, “apparently” and “ appears” and stated on page 11, “It should be borne in mind that insurgents may seek to shift the blame for some of their most egregious activities, such as the execution of elders or attacks on schools; they may misapprehend and overstate ISI power ; or they may in fact be in a state of denial.” 3 . In an interview with Al Jazeera English , when probed by the anchor on what direct evidence he had to make such comments on an official ISI policy, Waldman answered, “Well of course Pakistan’s intelligence is not going to leave any evidence around …[but] the pressure and dependence [of these insurgents] on the ISI explains why they confided” in him for this report. Here’s an interesting question – are insurgent commanders and militants qualified to make grand conjectures about an intelligence agency’s “ officially sanctioned” policy ? Are they legitimate sources for a report of this kind, that is ultimately making very serious allegations against not just the ISI, but also President Zardari ? If such claims and statements were corroborated by sources within the ISI or close to the agency, such a report could be very credible. But as Huma Imtiaz noted for the AfPak Channel , “reports like Waldman’s must be read with a grain of salt” even if it tackles many of the suspicions we all continue to have.

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