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ISI factions retain sympathies for Taliban: Report

Last Updated: Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 14:47

New York: Former Pakistani Army officers are continuing to train Taliban fighters and have helped the militant outfit to stage a remarkable comeback since 2006.
The Army trainers of the Taliban include some officers trained in prestigious US military academies, who now in public utterances remain vocal advocates of the outfit, New York Times reported.

These officers, some of whom have even risen high in Pakistan Army hierarchy, have no qualms that their trained fighters are battling their one time mentors, the paper reported saying their views reveal that the sympathies that have long run deep in the ranks of Pakistan`s military and intelligence services.

The paper interviewed a retired Colonel Imam, a former US trained officer in Pakistan`s spy agency ISI who sent insurgents into Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union in the 80`s and then to support the Taliban takeover of the country.

By his own account, the paper said the Colonel was so close to the Taliban supremo at large Mulla Muhammad Omar that he visited him days after the September 9/11 attacks and left Kabul only when American bombing campaign began later in 2001.

Colonel Imam, whose real name is Brig Sultan Amir, claims he has not returned to Afghanistan since and his parting advise to Omar was to fight on, but stick to guerrilla tactics.

"Despite Pakistan`s recent arrest of several high-level Taliban commanders, men like Colonel Imam sit at the centre of the questions that linger around what Pakistan`s actual intentions are towards the Taliban," the paper said.

American and NATO officials suspect that retired officers like Imam have served as quasi-official bridge to Taliban leaders and their rank and file as other militant groups.

Colonel Imam who lives in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, just yards from Pakistani Army headquarters denied any continued link to the Taliban. But he admitted that some "freelancers" -- meaning some former Pakistani military or intelligence officials-- might still be assisting the insurgents.

"If Colonel Imam personifies the double edge of Pakistan`s policy towards the Taliban, he also embodies the deep connection Pakistan has to Afghan insurgents, and possibly the key to controlling them," the Times said.

Though Imam speaks highly of the Americans he trained under, he predicts failure for the US in Afghanistan.


First Published: Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 14:47

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