ISI warns Taliban not to open talks without permission: Report
Last Updated: Monday, August 23, 2010, 23:55
Washington: Pakistan's military spy agency ISI has warned the Taliban not to open negotiations with the Hamid Karzai regime or the US without its permission.

Quoting top Pakistani security officials, New York Times said that the Taliban leaders have been warned against carrying out free-lance negotiations, where Islamabad is excluded.

"The message from the ISI is: no flirting," the paper said quoting a western diplomat.

Times said the warnings from the ISI to Taliban come in the backdrop of new reports that Pakistani intelligence had used CIA to capture the Taliban No 2 Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar from the port city of Karachi in last January because they wanted to shut down secret talks that militia leaders had been conducting with Afghan government that excluded Pakistan.

The paper said in the weeks after Baradar's capture, Pakistani security officials had detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of Pakistan government for years.

But now, Times said, the Taliban leaders who were detained had been set free to fight US forces again inside Afghanistan. Among those released include Mullah Qayoom Zakir, Abdul Kabir and Abdul Rauf Khadeem.

"We picked up Baradar and others because they were trying to make a deal without us," Times quoted a senior Pakistani security official as saying.

"We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians," the official told the paper.

Times said, the account now being offered in Islamabad on Baradar's arrest highlights Pakistan's policy on Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting arch enemy India and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan post war political order.

Quoting a senior NATO officer in Kabul, the report said that in arresting Baradar and other Taliban leaders Pakistan may have been trying to buy time to see if President Barack Obama's strategy begins to prevail.

If it does, the Pakistani spy agency may eventually decide to let the Taliban make a deal. But if the Americans fail -- and if they began to pull out -- then it may decide to retain the Taliban as their allies.

"We have been played before," the senior NATO officer said. "That the Pakistanis picked up Baradar to control the tempo of negotiation is absolutely plausible."

After capturing Baradar, Times said, the Taliban leader had been whisked away by the ISI to Islamabad and de-briefed for a week and Pakistan refused to allow the CIA to interrogate or even to be present when they spoke.

It was only several days later that the CIA had learnt Baradar's identity after helping ISI to capture him, and were allowed to question him.

Times said the Pakistani officials even joked about the CIA's 'naivete'. "They are so innocent," he said.

Contrary to reports, Baradar had not been extradited to Kabul and was living comfortably in the safe house of Pakistan's ISI, the paper said.


First Published: Monday, August 23, 2010, 23:55

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