- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Newly declassified intelligence documents reveal the depth of U.S. officials’ concern that Pakistan was providing funds, arms — and even combat troops — to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for years before the September 11 attacks.

They also show rising frustration at what U.S. officials called Pakistan’s “resistance and/or duplicity” toward Washington’s repeated requests for help in getting the Taliban to hand over terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. A top official at one point said hauling Pakistan before the U.N. Security Council should be considered.

The documents, released under a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University’s National Security Archive and posted on its Web site, www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/, add detail to what already is generally known about U.S. intelligence on Pakistan’s links with the Taliban as it surged to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.

The cables and letters between senior U.S. officials — most of them stamped “confidential” and heavily redacted for public release — lay out those concerns in language stripped of diplomatic niceties.

All but one of the 35 documents deal with the period from December 1994 to September 2000. Sensitive details, including what appear to be names, have been blacked out in many places.

They show that as early as 1994, U.S. officials suspected that Pakistan’s intelligence services were deeply involved with the Taliban and its takeover that year of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

It was the first major victory for the then-obscure religious militia that went on to capture the capital, Kabul, in September 1996 and gain control of almost all of Afghanistan by mid-1997.

Responding to the new documents, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam reiterated Pakistan’s previous strong denials that the country ever gave military support to the Taliban. She also denied Pakistan ignored U.S. requests to use its influence to persuade the Taliban to surrender bin Laden.

In 1996, U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Pakistan’s Interservice Intelligence was more involved with the Taliban than Pakistani officials had been telling American diplomats.

An Oct. 22 cable to Washington said the service was supplying the Taliban with food and fuel, adding that “munitions convoys depart Pakistan late in the evening hours and are concealed to reveal their true contents.”

Two weeks later, another cable to Washington said large numbers of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps were being “utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary — combat” in Afghanistan. The Frontier Corps was made up of mostly ethnic Pashtuns, who would not stand out among the Taliban, who also were mostly Pashtuns.

Mrs. Aslam denied the cable’s claims.

“That’s absolutely baseless. Our troops have never been involved inside Afghanistan,” she said.

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