U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
in particular cites the ISI and the Quds Force.
By Greg Miller
September 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington
U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says he has evidence that
factions of Pakistani and Iranian spy services are supporting insurgent
groups that carry out attacks on coalition troops.
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are being aided by "elements of
some intelligence agencies," Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote in a
detailed analysis of the military situation delivered to the White
House earlier this month.
McChrystal went on to single out Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence agency as well as the Quds Force of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard as contributing to the external forces working to
undermine U.S. interests and destabilize the government in Kabul.
The remarks reflect long-running U.S. concerns about Pakistan and
Iran, but it is rare that they have been voiced so prominently by a top
U.S. official. McChrystal submitted his assessment last month, and a
declassified version was published Sunday on the Washington Post
The criticism of Pakistan is a particularly delicate issue because
of the United States' close cooperation with Islamabad in pursuing
militants and carrying out drone airstrikes in the nation's rugged east.
"Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan,"
McChrystal wrote, adding that senior leaders of the major Taliban
groups are "reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI." The
ISI has long-standing ties to the Taliban, but Pakistani officials have
repeatedly claimed to have severed those relationships in the aftermath
of the Sept. 11 attacks.
More recently, the ISI has been a key U.S. partner in the capture
of a number of high-level Al Qaeda operatives, including alleged Sept.
11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But U.S. officials have also
complained of ongoing contacts between the spy service and Taliban
U.S. frustration peaked last year when Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other U.S. officials secretly
confronted Pakistan with evidence of ISI involvement in the suicide
bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
Since then, U.S. officials have sought to avoid public criticism
of the Pakistani service as part of an effort to defuse tensions in the
relationship. Indeed, U.S. officials in recent months have said that
the ISI had become more committed to the counter-terrorism cause after
one of the service's own facilities in Lahore was the target of a
McChrystal's comments are the first public indication in months
that the United States continues to see signs of ISI support for
insurgent groups. Experts said elements of the ISI maintain those ties
to hedge against a U.S. withdrawal from the region and rising Indian
influence in Afghanistan.
"There is a mixture of motives and concerns within the ISI that
have accounted for the dalliances that have gone on for years" with
insurgent groups, said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA
Iran has traditionally had an adversarial relationship with the
Taliban, and McChrystal's report says that Tehran has played "an
ambiguous role in Afghanistan," providing developmental assistance to
the government even as it flirts with insurgent groups that target U.S.
"The Iranian Quds Force is reportedly training fighters for
certain Taliban groups and providing other forms of military assistance
to insurgents," McChrystal said in the report. The Quds Force is an
elite wing of the Revolutionary Guard that carries out operations in
McChrystal did not elaborate on the nature of the assistance, but
Iran has been a transit point for foreign fighters entering Pakistan.
Experts also cited evidence that Iran has provided training and
technology in the use of roadside bombs.
U.S. intelligence officials said Iran appears to calibrate its
involvement to tie down U.S. and coalition troops without provoking
Iran's aim "is to make sure the U.S. is tied down and preoccupied
in yet another theater," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at
Georgetown University. "From Iran's point of view, it's an historical
area of interest and too good an opportunity to pass up."
Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times