Spanish report: Pakistan helped arm Taliban

/ Source: The Associated Press

A report marked confidential and bearing the official seal of Spain's Defense Ministry charges that Pakistan's spy service was helping arm Taliban insurgents in 2005 for assassination plots against the Afghan government.

The report, which was obtained by Cadena Ser radio and posted on the station's Web site on Wednesday, also says Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, or ISI, helped the Taliban procure improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, to use in attacks against vehicles.

It alleges that Pakistan may have provided training and intelligence to the Taliban in camps set up on Pakistani soil.

"The plan is that the TBs (Taliban) use these RCIEDs (remote control IEDs) to assassinate high-ranking officials," the report warns. The August 2005 document, which is marked "confidential" and topped with the Defense Ministry seal and the title of Spain's military intelligence agency, does not describe the source of the information.

Cadena Ser did not say how it obtained the report.

The Defense Ministry and the Spanish prime minister's office said it had no comment on the document. Fernando Reinares, a terrorism analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid and former chief counterterrorism adviser at Spain's Interior Ministry, said the document appeared to be an internal government report meant for the eyes of high-ranking officials.

Spain has about 800 soldiers deployed in northwest Afghanistan.

'Possible' training camps in Pakistan
The report also warns that "it appears possible" that advanced training camps exist in Pakistan "where the Taliban receive training, help and intelligence from the ISI and where they are also developing new kinds of IEDs." The report says the Taliban had also been receiving help from al-Qaida.

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 terror attacks of March 11, 2004.

There have long been suspicions that members of Pakistan's shadowy spy agency have aided the Taliban, a charge that Pakistan has vehemently denied.

A senior military official in Pakistan told the AP on Wednesday that the Spanish report had no merit. He asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Pakistani officials did not immediately respond to requests for on-the-record comment on the allegations.

The ISI has helped kill or capture several top al-Qaida leaders since 2001, but there are lingering doubts about its loyalty, not least because its agents helped build up the Taliban in the 1990s.

U.S. intelligence agencies suspect rogue elements may still be giving Taliban militants sensitive information to aid in their growing insurgency in Afghanistan, even though officially Pakistan is a U.S. ally in fighting terrorism.

Link to Indian Embassy bombing?
Some analysts say elements in the spy agency may want to retain the Taliban as potential assets against longtime rival India and believe Pakistan's strategic interests are best served if Afghanistan remains a weak state.

India and Afghanistan — and reportedly the U.S. — suspect the ISI of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India's Embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Pakistan's army chief this week named a general considered a hawk in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban to head the ISI.

The Taliban has regularly used roadside bombs to attack U.S. troops and Afghan security forces since the beginning of the insurgency following the fall off the movement in 2001.

The explosives used have become increasingly powerful in the past year. Such IED attacks can now rip through an armored military vehicle and kill all personnel inside.