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Report finds Taliban commanders believe they are managed by Pakistani intelligence service

Taliban commanders inside Afghanistan believe that their organisations, and the war efforts they are currently undertaking, are closely managed by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.  This was the key finding of a report authored by Matt Waldman, Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, published this week in the Discussion Papers |series of the LSE's Crisis States Research Centre. 

Centre Director, Professor James Putzel, commented, 'This report is based on research carried out inside Afghanistan, including interviews with important Taliban commanders, who clearly believe that they are being "run" by Pakistan's intelligence service. The prevalence of such beliefs among the insurgents themselves and the critical stance they take towards the relationship between their leadership networks and elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence services may prove to be important as Afghans continue to explore the prospects for reaching a peace agreement. We believe the publication of these findings can advance the public and policy debates about the prospects for peace and development in Afghanistan'. 

'That Taliban commanders and a wider group of Afghans close to the insurgency believe that the highest levels of Pakistan's government are actively involved in protecting and sustaining the insurgency presents a great challenge to senior Pakistani civilian and military officials to demonstrate their commitment to reaching a peace settlement', Putzel said. 'After all, the costs of this conflict in the lives of civilians and soldiers in Pakistan itself will continue to increase until a lasting peace is reached on both sides of the border'.  

The research undertaken by Waldman complements the Crisis States Research Centre's growing corpus of research on the sources of conflict, the trajectories of state-building and the economic and political dimensions of the development challenge in Afghanistan. The relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan's ISI were discussed in two books authored by Centre Research Fellow, Dr. Antonio Giustozzi – Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop and Decoding the Taliban (Hurst 2007 and 2010) and explored in the CSRC Working Paper, "The Missing Ingredient: Non-Ideological Insurgency and State Collapse in Western Afghanistan, 1979-1992" (CSRC WP No. 11, 2007|). A recent paper co-authored by Guistozzi, "Negotiating with the Taliban: toward a solution for the Afghan conflict" (CSRC WP No.66, 2010|) discusses the debate on reconciliation and negotiations with the Taliban, its future prospects and the role of the United Nations within it.  The paper argues that the very fact the conflict in its various phases has been going on for so long offers opportunities for reconciliation and it discusses the shape this could take, including the role of regional powers like Pakistan.  

A new Policy Direction to be published on Wednesday of this week (16 June) by the CSRC, Cycles of War and Peace in Afghanistan: Understanding the Political Economy of Conflict argues that there is an internal logic to the progression of war and the processes that make peace possible. According to the Centre's Director, "The understanding of attitudes among Afghan insurgents that is offered in Waldman's paper on the ISI provides key insights into where in the cycle of war and peace Afghanistan is today. Such an understanding is crucial if international actors are to intervene in ways that shorten rather than prolong the war'. 

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