ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Wednesday brushed aside claims made by Afghan insurgents in a secret NATO report that Pakistan has been directing the Taliban’s battle to regain power in Afghanistan.
“We have no hidden agenda in Afghanistan,” Hina Rabbani Khar said in Kabul, where she expressed support for the Afghan government’s nascent peace negotiations with the Taliban. “These claims have been made many, many times. Pakistan stands behind any initiative that the Afghan government takes for peace.”
Khar’s trip to the Afghan capital to meet with her counterpart there was initially overshadowed by headlines about a classified report obtained by British news organizations and said to be based on 27,000 separate interrogations of 4,000 captured insurgents. The detainees asserted that the Taliban is poised to regain control of Afghanistan once Western forces withdraw.
NATO officials, while confirming the report’s authenticity, played down its significance. They said the document is essentially a summary of what the detainees said, not a corroboration of their views.
“It’s not an analysis, nor is it meant to be considered an analysis,” Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, told the Reuters news service.
The BBC and the Times released excerpts from the report, which restates long-standing U.S. allegations that Pakistan plays a “double game,” supporting the Taliban’s war across the border even while trying to quell its own Islamist insurgency.
“Pakistan’s manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly,” the BBC quoted the report as saying. The document reportedly asserts that Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, monitors the whereabouts of all senior Taliban leaders and also directs attacks against NATO forces.
“Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the government of Pakistan,” the report said. It also alleged that Islamabad is “intimately involved” with the effort to topple the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Compiled by the U.S. military at Bagram air base, the classified report was given to NATO officers last month, the Times reported.
“For me, this is old wine in an even older bottle,” Khar told reporters in Kabul. “I don’t think these things are new — these things have been heard for many, many years. More importantly, I think it would be important to look at the conversations that are taking place with the Taliban by many other important capitals of the world, so I think I can just disregard this.”
Neither ISI nor Pakistani army officials would comment Wednesday, but a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, called the report “frivolous, to put it mildly.”
“We are committed to non-
interference in Afghanistan,” Basit said in a statement. “Pakistan has suffered enormously because of the long conflict in Afghanistan. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our own interest.”
According to the BBC, the report quotes a senior al-Qaeda detainee as saying: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Konar without them watching.”
“The Taliban are not Islam,” the detainee reportedly continued. “The Taliban are Islamabad.”
The report suggests that the insurgents have gained support among the Afghan people and are biding their time until the announced pullout of coalition forces in 2014.
“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” the Times quoted the report as saying. “Once ISAF is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable.”
But in one of its tweets, ISAF portrayed that claim as wishful boasting by enemy combatants. “Keep in mind [insurgents are] often inspired to play up their success, support, and morale,” it said.
Echoing Khar’s comments in Kabul, a prominent Pakistani legislator, Ayaz Amir, who sits on committees on defense and foreign affairs, said he considered the NATO report nothing more than a “repeat of past claims.”
He added, “This blame game must come to an end now, and all the partners in this counterterrorism campaign should work together, trust each other and fight this menace.”
Special correspondent Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.