Providing intelligence to the Taliban/the Haqqani Network

What is the ISI doing? 

The ISI is:

  • Providing intelligence to the Taliban/the Haqqani Network
  • “Insurgent commanders confirmed that the ISI are even represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani command council. Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the Taliban’s strategic autonomy, precluding steps towards talks with the Afghan government through recent arrests.”
  • Giving direct orders to the Haqqani Network
  • “Directly or indirectly the ISI appears to exert significant influence on the strategic decision- making and field operations of the Taliban; and has even greater sway over Haqqani insurgents.” (This quote is from the last meeting’s notes, I believe it was Rachael that found this quote).
  • A battlefield report that appears to have been written by Jalaluddin during the same time period provides similar insights into the historical nature of this relationship, as it reports to the ISI the shooting down of a Russian Mig‐29 with a Stinger missile, and lists men who have been recently killed or injured. The letter acknowledges the receipt of $126,000 in cash from the ISI, and makes a request for four kilograms of meat every month, one kilo of tea and chewing tobacco for each of his men.
  • Providing logistical support (i.e. weapons) to the Taliban
  • “Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In their words, this is ‘as clear as the sun in the sky”.
  • Insurgents believe the ISI shapes their operations in a powerful, surreptitious and coercive way. They even believe that the ISI is represented on their operational command councils. One, from a central province, said: ‘We heard the ISI are on the Quetta,42 Miramshah and Peshawar shuras, [the operational command councils for the south, south-east and eastern Afghanistan] and we’re not happy about this.’43 Certainly, insurgent skills and capabilities at the operational and tactical level suggest the involvement of trained military personnel (Giustozzi 2007:25). As a former senior security official said: ‘They give them the plans, the strategy and new techniques. The chain goes back to the ISI.’44 This is also consistent with reports that the ISI has provided tactical, operational and strategic intelligence to the Taliban (Jones 2010:266).
  • ISI involvement in the early stages of the insurgency has been widely acknowledged. From 2003-2004 the ISI were operating training camps for Taliban recruits, and facilitating the supply of funds, equipment and arms from Gulf countries.54 The Pakistani army established medical facilities for Taliban fighters, and were even providing covering fire at border crossings. Communications intercepts showed that Taliban commanders were liaising with Pakistani military officers to ensure safe passage across the border (Rashid 2008:223).
  • However, interviews suggest that Pakistan continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies. As a south-eastern commander put it: ‘We receive a lot of training, weapons, ammunition and expenses from the Pakistan government. … Everyone knows Pakistan gives money, it goes centrally, then flow down.’61 Another commander from a central province said: ‘Of course, it’s a huge project [the insurgency], it needs huge funding, IEDs [improvised explosive devices], ammunition, training, needs everything, all of this has been given by Pakistan. We do not have facilities to produce any of this. … We get 10,000 Pakistani rupees ($120) per month for each Talib. This money comes from Pakistan, first to the [shadow] provincial governor, then to the district commander, then to the group commander. It is from the Pakistan government – but maybe other countries too, are paying from behind the curtain.’62 One southern commander reported that groups were paid bonuses for successful attacks against coalition forces, usually of $2,000-3,000, which he believed were derived from ISI sources.63
  • One southern commander said that when he and comrades were living in Pakistan they used to solicit donations for fighting in Afghanistan, but: ‘The ISI and Pakistan government [also] paid. Charity was small money; it didn’t even pay the rent. Groups going to Afghanistan [from Pakistan] have a lot of expenses. For sure the ISI were paying a lot of money: groups of 20-30 people got 2-3 million Pakistani rupees [$24,000-$36,000] each year.’68 Some Afghan and western security officials believe that the ISI is also covering the living costs of the families of Taliban fighters who live in Pakistan.69
  • Providing logistical support (i.e. weapons) to the Haqqani Network
  • Directly or indirectly, the ISI appear to have a major role in sustaining the Haqqani group. The senior commander said that in every three weeks he would usually spend two in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan. Every month he would receive 60-80 boxes of AK47 rounds and two or three large boxes of grenades and IEDs. If he required further supplies or munitions, he would go to the command group (the Haqqanis and former ISI officials) who would issue him with a letter of credit, which he could present to arms dealers in Khost (in south-east Afghanistan) or Miramshah. For operating expenses, he receives a monthly cheque of between 0.5-1 million Pakistani rupees $6-12,000. He believes the money comes from two sources: Gulf Countries, especially Saudi Arabia, that is accessed through the Saudi Bank; and from the ISI, which is accessed from the Islamic Bank of Pakistan, in which the Haqqani network apparently has a representative. Indeed, the former claim is corroborated by a recent report that over $920 million has flowed from Saudi Arabian donors to Afghan insurgents, mainly via Waziristan, over the last four years.86
  • The senior commander described how until recently there were insurgent training camps in Pakistan for two to three thousand fighters, but due to drone strikes they are now far smaller, capable of training 120 Taliban each, usually for 20 days at a time. He said there are now three major camps, two in Korram Agency and one near Miramshah.
  • Providing training (provided Mujahideen during the time of fighting Russia, they are still providing training)
  • Gained global recognition in the 1980s when it supported the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet Union during the Soviet-Afghan war in then Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
  • During the war, the ISI worked in close coordination with the CIA to train and fund the Mujahideen with American, Pakastani, and Saudi funds
  • After the fall of the Soviet Union, the ISI provided strategic support and intelligence to the Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance during the Afghan Civil War in the 1990s”
  • In the 1980s the ISI was instrumental in supporting seven Sunni Muslim mujahedeen groups in their jihad against the Soviets, and was the principal conduit of covert US and Saudi funding. It subsequently played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Taliban (Coll 2005:292) and Pakistan provided significant political, financial, military and logistical support to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan (1996-2001)(Rashid 2001). This support was comprised not only of arms, ammunition, equipment, fuel and other supplies, but also military advisers and trainers, as well as economic support. Even in 2001, in breach of UN sanctions, ‘up to thirty ISI trucks a day were still crossing into Afghanistan’ (Rashid 2008:60).
  • The interviews suggest that the ISI continues to sanction and support military training centres for insurgents and a large number of madrassas that actively encourage their students to fight in Afghanistan. All commanders reported that significant numbers of their fighters attend training camps in Pakistan that are run or backed by the ISI. One southern commander described how in his district, where there are some 600 fighters, around 70-80 fighters had gone to Pakistan for training this winter [2009-2010].75 Emphasising the continuing importance of such training, a south-eastern commander said that, ‘of the 280 fighters in our district, some 80 per cent were trained in Pakistan.’76
  • The ISI has influence on Taliban strategy 
  • “Insurgent commanders confirmed that the ISI are even represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani command council. Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the Taliban’s strategic autonomy, precluding steps towards talks with the Afghan government through recent arrests.”
  • As a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report summarises: Many analysts believe that Pakistan’s intelligence services know the whereabouts of … Afghan Taliban leadership elements and likely even maintain active contacts with them at some level as part of a hedge strategy in the region. Some reports indicate that elements of Pakistan’s major intelligence agency and military forces aid the Taliban. (Kronstadt 2009:12)
  • …the ISI appears to be able to exert significant influence on Taliban strategy. As a Kandahari political figure summarised: ‘The ISI have some control [over the Taliban]. They have influence in strategic decision-making. Sure, they have dominated the Taliban movement, but they [the Taliban] have some independence.’10 Likewise, a political analyst in Kandahar said: ‘The Taliban is obliged to accept Pakistan’s demands – it needs their support, but is not their puppet.’11
  • The Taliban-ISI relationship is founded on mutual benefit. The Taliban need external sanctuary, as well as military and logistical support to sustain their insurgency; the ISI believes that it needs a significant allied force in Afghanistan to maintain regional strength and ‘strategic depth’ in their rivalry with India.12
  • How is Pakistan’s strategic influence manifested in practice?… Some analysts speak of the ‘collaboration of elements within the ISI’ with the Taliban (Johnson and Mason 2008). Antonio Giustozzi argues there is evidence of the involvement in the insurgency of ‘advisors with long-standing experience of Afghanistan, such as current or former ISI operatives’ (Giustozzi 2007).
  • Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the Shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement. Significantly, even a limited ISI presence on the Shura would allow the agency to monitor the Shura’s decisions and take steps against members who are not perceived to be acting in Pakistan’s interests. (“Shura” is the the supreme council of the Afghan Taliban)
  • One individual who was a deputy minister under the former Taliban regime and who frequently liaises with the Taliban, said that three to seven ISI officials attend the Quetta Shura as observers. He believes that the ISI has responsibility for organising the meetings and that it exerts pressure on individual participants beforehand, especially if major decisions are to be taken.20 As one commander put it: ‘We heard that the ISI were on the Quetta Shura, but we don’t follow their orders. They are observers, not making decisions.’21 An Afghan conflict analyst, with years of experience in southern Afghanistan and contacts with the Taliban, concurred, pointing out that the ISI, ‘use people who have the same appearance, language, behaviour, and habits as Afghans.

Arrest and release of Zakir and Raouf→  In early February 2010 the ISI arrested seven or more Taliban leaders, including Qayyum Zakir36 and Mullah Abdul Raouf Khadem, two of the most powerful individuals in the movement.37 Yet, only days after their detention they were released.38 To say the least, this is a strong indication of significant ISI influence over the movement and it is highly likely that the release was on ISI terms or at least on the basis of a mutual understanding.39

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