Spanish report ties ISI to Taliban
* Claims agency funded training camps and weapons acquisition
* Pakistan army chief vehemently denies Madrid claim
Daily Times Monitor
MADRID: A confidential Spanish Defence Ministry report has alleged Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped arm the Taliban in 2005 for assassination plots against the Afghan government.
The confidential report, obtained by Cadena Ser radio and posted on the station’s website on Wednesday, also alleges ISI helped the Taliban procure roadside bombs.
“The Taliban, with the help of Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), received explosives that were to be activated at long distance,” according to the report.
“The plan was that the Taliban used these devices against vehicles to assassinate … even though it did not specify against what type of targets,” according to the report.
Training camps: CIFAS, Spain’s military intelligence body, also noted the “possible existence of training camps for the production of improvised explosives devices (IEDs) in Pakistani territory, where Taliban received training, support and information from the Pakistani secret service.”
The report says ISI planned to have the Taliban use the explosives “to assassinate high-ranking officials.”
The August 2005 document does not describe its sources and Cadena Ser did not say how it obtained the report.
Denial: Chief Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said on Wednesday the Spanish report was “baseless, unfounded and part of a malicious, well-orchestrated propaganda campaign to malign the ISI.”
“ISI is the first line of defence of Pakistan and certain quarters are attempting to weaken our national intelligence system,” Abbas said, without elaborating.
In Spain, the Defence Ministry and prime minister’s office said they had no comment.
Western intelligence agencies have long suspected elements of Pakistan’s spy service have aided the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
But this report appears to be the first leaked to the media that spells out such a connection in writing.
Fernando Reinares, a terrorism analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid and former chief counter terrorism adviser at Spain’s Interior Ministry, said the document appeared to be an internal report intended for high-level officials.
Spain has about 800 soldiers deployed in northwest Afghanistan.
Reinares said the report on the alleged ISI-Taliban link is in keeping with information from other Western spy agencies.
“The intelligence services have done nothing more then confirm a reality which has also been reported by other Western agencies,” he told The Associated Press.
Reinares said Spain has developed a strong military and police intelligence operation in Pakistan, particularly since the deadly terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004 on commuter trains in Madrid.
A 2006 report by a British Defence Ministry think-tank discussed an ISI-Taliban link and said the Pakistani spy agency was supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, but the opinions expressed in the document did not constitute official government policy.
Despite Wednesday’s strong denial though, one Pakistani government spokeswoman acknowledged in August that the government needs to root out Taliban sympathisers from its intelligence service.
Some analysts say elements in the spy agency may want to retain the Taliban as a bulwark against long-time rival India, believing Pakistan’s strategic interests are best served if Afghanistan remains a weak state. (Daily Times, 4 October 2008)