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Pakistan provided military aid, troops to Taliban
John Byrne
Published: Thursday August 16, 2007

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Pakistan kindled group that succored Bin Laden

Pakistan, one of President Bush's stalwart allies in the "War on Terror," gave substantial military support to the Taliban in the years leading up to 9/11, according to newly released documents.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by George Washington University's National Security Archive, the documents provide a striking contrast to the Administration's portrayal of Pakistan. They show that Pakistan not only supplied arms and troops to train and fight alongside the extremist group.

When the Taliban seized Afghanistan in 1996, Bin Laden forged an alliance between the new rulers and al-Qaeda. His fighters trained alongside -- and integrated -- with the Taliban army. Bin Laden provided the Taliban with economic support, and his group was thought to have played a part in the assassination of the Taliban's strongest internal military opponent.

After the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, the Taliban refused extradition requests from the United States.

The National Security Archive calls the documents the "most complete and comprehensive collection of declassified documentation to date on Pakistan's aid programs to the Taliban, illustrating Islamabad's firm commitment to a Taliban victory in Afghanistan."

The documents largely predate Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, who uses the title of President and took power in a 1999 military coup. On Sunday, Musharraf acknowledged diplomatic and economic links with the Taliban but denied direct military aid. US intelligence and State Department documents, however, show otherwise.

"These new documents also support and inform the findings of a recently-released CIA intelligence estimate characterizing Pakistan's tribal areas as a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists, and provide new details about the close relationship between Islamabad and the Taliban in the years prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan," the National Security Archive writes.

"Declassified State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban's severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan's frontier region."

The documents reveal that in the weeks following the 1996 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan's intelligence agency was "supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel and food."

"Using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces," Pakistan helped fuel the group that provided haven for Osama Bin Laden.

"Other documents also conclude that there has been an extensive and consistent history of 'both military and financial assistance to the Taliban,'" the Archive says.

Noted the UK Guardian in Thursday editions, "For Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," a state department briefing paper, dated January 1997, said, adding: "Many Pakistanis claim they detest the Taliban brand of Islam, noting that it might infect Pakistan, but this apparently is a problem for another day."

Musharraf has acknowledged that the movement had elements of support in Pakistan. Pakistan's is thought to continue to harbor al-Qaeda elements, who fled over the Afghan border after the US attack in 2001.

"The documents illustrate that throughout the 1990's the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] considered Islamic extremists to be foreign policy assets," Barbara Elias, a National Security Archive researcher, said. "But they succeeded ultimately in creating a Pakistani Taliban. Those years of fuelling insurgents created something that now directly threatens Islamabad."

Read the full National Security Archive report here.