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Afghan official: Pakistan spy agency aided Taliban militants

Highlights a key Obama challenge amid new strategy

By Sebastian Abbot and Chris Brummitt
Associated Press / March 27, 2009
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KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's intelligence chief accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping Taliban militants carry out attacks in his country, highlighting one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama administration as it prepared yesterday to launch a new strategy for the Afghan conflict.

Many Taliban militants fled to Pakistan's border area from Afghanistan following the 2001 US-led invasion, finding a sanctuary that allowed them to mount cross-border attacks that have destabilized Afghanistan and jeopardized international efforts to rebuild the country.

President Obama called the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday to brief them on the new strategy, their offices said. Many believe that even with a stepped-up US effort, chances for success are slim unless Pakistan effectively cracks down on Taliban and Al Qaeda militants operating from its territory.

The United States and Afghanistan have repeatedly called on Pakistan to sever all links with the Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s with significant support from Pakistan's military intelligence agency - known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

Pakistan's government insists it no longer supports the militant group, but the country's civilian leaders have limited control over the agency.

Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament Wednesday that the spy agency provides support to the Taliban leadership council in the Pakistani city of Quetta headed by the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces.

The New York Times reported that Pakistani spy operatives provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders, with evidence of the ties coming from electronic surveillance and trusted informants.

The report cited American, Pakistani and other security officials who spoke anonymously because they were discussing confidential intelligence information.

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