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Pakistan decries WikiLeaks release of U.S. military documents on Afghan war

By Joshua Partlow and Karin Brulliard
Washington Post staff writers
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; A09

KABUL -- Pakistani officials reacted angrily Monday to the publication of a trove of U.S. military documents that suggested Pakistan's spy agency collaborated with the Taliban, saying the United States is using their country as a scapegoat for its failing war.

Diplomats and officials dismissed the reports as rehashed falsehoods, but ones that could have damaging consequences for Pakistan's relations with the United States. Some expressed doubts about whether the United States could be trusted with sensitive information and questioned pledges of increased trust in Pakistan.

In a statement, the Pakistani government called the allegations, contained in more than 91,000 military documents leaked by the group WikiLeaks.org to unveil $500 million worth of development projects, the first disbursement of a $7.5 billion, five-year aid package approved by Congress last year.

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

The official acknowledged, however, that some of the allegations sound "very damning" and could erode support in the United States for the alliance with Pakistan. If the CIA does not denounce the suggestions, the official said the ISI might need to reexamine its cooperation.

Pakistani officials dismissed the disclosures that their country's spies meet and coordinate attacks with Taliban leaders. Several officials and analysts suggested that the Obama administration is trying to exert pressure on their government or smear Pakistan's reputation.

Retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, a former Pakistani spy chief who was repeatedly implicated in the documents, also lashed out at the allegations that he aided the Taliban attacks. Gul is accused, among other things, of directing Pakistan-based militants to craft plans for strikes inside Afghanistan, including one meant as payback for the death of an al-Qaeda operative killed by a U.S. drone attack.

In an interview Monday, 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 [the] 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 critics of the United States and an unabashed supporter of Afghan insurgents. U.S. officials have long suspected him of retaining links to former mujaheddin such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The senior ISI official said Gul has no remaining ties to the agency.

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