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Angry Pakistani officials deny leaked documents' suggestion of ties to Taliban

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange describes some of the findings from the just-released U.S. military records of six years of the war, including unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings and covert operations against Taliban figures.

The disclosures "will perhaps increase the sense of hopelessness" among Afghans about the extent of the insurgency and create "greater skepticism when Afghans are told of progress," the official said on condition of anonymity. "The Afghan government will feel vindicated and claim that the U.S. ignored for too long its allegations against Pakistan."

A senior ISI official, speaking on condition of anonymity according to agency custom, said the agency was still sifting through the documents. But the official said the allegations did not sound new, and that they appeared to contain no concrete evidence of ISI backing for the Afghan insurgency.

"In the intelligence business, anything and everything is reported. If tomorrow a person walks into my office and says he saw Osama bin Laden or XYZ, I have to report that. That does not become credible information or intelligence until and unless that is corroborated," the official said. "The majority of these reports coming out of WikiLeaks fall into that category."

The official said, however, that some of the allegations sound "very damning" and could erode support among the American public for the U.S. alliance with Pakistan. But he said that was not a major concern.

"It is our war that we are fighting. If the Americans don't think they can support us, sorry. Tough luck," the official said. "We will continue to do what we are doing."

Pakistani officials on both sides of the border dismissed the disclosures that Pakistani spies meet and coordinate attacks with Taliban leaders. Some officials assumed this was an intentional effort by the Obama administration to exert pressure on their government or smear their reputation.

"You know the quality of the intelligence, it's like WMD in Iraq," said one senior Pakistani official. "What they are saying is not possible. If really the ISI is so bad, why are they cooperating so closely with ISI? This is a typical way of pressurizing. It's not only this case."

The official added that "leaks are an instrument of policy in the U.S." He said Pakistan takes the blame for America losing in Afghanistan.

"The whole thing has become a joke. This is really not serious. You cannot fight wars like this. When you are fighting a war, you need a more serious approach. I think the whole approach is full of farce."

Former Pakistani spy chief Lt. Hamid Gul, who was repeatedly implicated in the documents, lashed out at the allegations that he personally supported the Taliban. Gul is accused, among other things, of helping Pakistan-based militants craft plans for an attack inside Afghanistan as payback for the death of an al-Qaeda operative killed by a U.S. drone strike.

In an interview, he said the leaked documents should prompt Pakistan to drop its alliance with the United States. The Americans are "facing defeat in Afghanistan and to cover that they are coming up with false allegations against Pakistan," he said. "This is a pack of lies to malign Pakistan army and the ISI."

Gul worked closely with the CIA's anti-Soviet campaign during his tenure from 1987 to 1989. Today, he is one of Pakistan's most strident anti-American critics, and U.S. officials have long suspected him of retaining links to former mujaheddin such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.


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