BBC Documentary Exposes ISI Training, Equipping of Taliban Militants


For just over a month, the US and Pakistan have been struggling to deal with tensions created by former Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee where he stated flatly that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency directly aids militants who attack US interests in Afghanistan.  Wednesday night, BBC Two aired part one of its “Secret Pakistan” documentary, providing detailed evidence that supports Mullen’s accusations.

From BBC News, we get some details on the disclosures in the documentary:

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the claims. But the BBC documentary series Secret Pakistan has spoken to a number of middle-ranking – and still active – Taliban commanders who provide detailed evidence of how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.

“For a fighter there are two important things – supplies and a place to hide,” said one Taliban commander, who fights under the name Mullah Qaseem. “Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly, they provide us with weapons.”

Another commander, Najib, says: “Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan and increased operations here, so Pakistan’s support for us increased as well.”

He says his militia received a supply truck with “500 landmines with remote controls, 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 2000 to 3000 grenades… AK-47s, machine-guns and rockets”.

Reuters also describes some of the revelations from the program:

Other Taliban commanders described how they and their fighters were, and are, trained in a network of camps on Pakistani soil.

According to a commander using the name Mullah Azizullah, the experts running the training are either members of the ISI or have close links to it.

“They are all the ISI’s men. They are the ones who run the training. First they train us about bombs; then they give us practical guidance,” he said.

The BBC News article also quotes CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who prepared a review of US intelligence on ISI involvement with militants.  Riedel told BBC that the ISI actively supports Taliban militants that carry out actions in Afghanistan.  Riedel also claimed that US drone attacks are now more successful because Pakistan is not given advance warning:

And the recent drone attacks in Pakistan have become increasingly effective as intelligence has been withheld from the Pakistanis, claims Mr Riedel.

“At the beginning of the drone operations, we gave Pakistan an advance tip-off of where we were going, and every single time the target wasn’t there anymore. You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to put the dots together.”

Riedel’s claim that Pakistani intelligence is excluded from information on US drone strikes is at odds with some of the reporting on today’s drone strike in South Waziristan.  This strike is said to have killed five commanders of the Maulvi Nazir faction of Pakistan’s Taliban.  But Reuters’ article on the strike has this passage:

Pakistani leaders say drone strikes inflame widespread anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and play into the hands of militants.

But analysts say high-profile militants can’t be spotted without help from Pakistani intelligence.

It is hard to reconcile the view that excluding Pakistani intelligence is necessary to prevent tipping off Taliban figures that they are about to be targeted with the claim that Pakistani intelligence is vital to locating Taliban figures for targeting.

At the very least, it appears that either the operator in today’s attack was having difficulty aiming or the driver of the vehicle in which the targets were traveling was good at evasive maneuvers.  From Dawn:

According to initial details, five missiles were fired on a vehicle carrying several passengers.

I guess for drone operators, the fifth time’s the charm.

29 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    It is hard to reconcile the view that excluding Pakistani intelligence is necessary to prevent tipping off Taliban figures that they are about to be targeted with the claim that Pakistani intelligence is vital to locating Taliban figures for targeting

    Not really. There are more factions in the ISI than there are in the US congress. Some help us. Some help themselves and that results in them helping us on occasion. Some help the Taliban, and then help us to keep their cover.

    Would YOU tell Holy Joe about democrat re-election strategy? If you did, the GOPers would know within hours. OTOH, Holy Joe does get good intelligence from the other side so you might listen.

    Boxturtle (Odd that nobody is picking up that story here)

  2. Jim White says:

    @BoxTurtle: Yes, it does seem odd that the claims from the documentary aren’t all over the usual war-mongering US press. This seems to be the sort of thing they would eat up.

    And speaking of JoeLie, it seems like he and Lindsey should be all over it, too.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    @Jim White: It’s only 10:30, their servants probably haven’t awakened them yet. Either that, or they haven’t received their talking points from the Defense Contractors yet.

    Or ObamaLLP is keeping the story supressed because they REALLY don’t want people looking too closly at what goes on in Pakistan. I think the reaction to Mullens testimony was louder than they wanted and they don’t want a repeat.

    Boxturtle (Place your bets!)

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    @klynn: Don’t worry about the bags under my eyes, just hide the horns and tail.

    Boxturtle (And do something about the brimstone smell)

  5. scribe says:

    @BoxTurtle: You beat me to it.

    It is hard to reconcile the view that excluding Pakistani intelligence is necessary to prevent tipping off Taliban figures that they are about to be targeted with the claim that Pakistani intelligence is vital to locating Taliban figures for targeting.

    The difficulty in reconciling these views comes from assuming ISI (or any intelligence agency or any organization in any field, for that matter) is monolithic. As noted above, some of the reasons can be:

    1. The ISI has people whose first loyalty is to the Taliban and act accordingly.
    2. The Taliban has compromised some ISI people into giving information to the Taliban.
    3. The ISI has compromised some people in the Taliban, who they protect by tipping them off.
    4. The ISI has compromised some people in the Taliban, whom they dispose of by drone strike (either by not tipping them off or by informing the Americans) when they have outlived their usefulness.
    5. The ISI disposes of alleged Taliban to get favors from the Americans.
    6. People in the Pakistani military (the guys in the supply room) are supplementing their income by selling out the back door the stuff they take in through the front door.

    And so on.

    Musta been a bad day for lasers in the Tribal Regions, what with needing five missiles to whack a car. Hellfire missiles were originally intended as the succesor to the helicopter-mounted TOW antitank missiles of the 70s and 80s, to be the main armament of the Apache attack helicopter. They were intended to be used on Soviet tanks maneuvering across the countryside of West Germany, so the whole idea of hitting dodgy targets in less-than-optimal weather was built in from the beginning. The Hellfire missles are guided by illuminating the target with a laser invisible to the naked eye and they home on the laser light. This makes them “fire-and-forget” as opposed to TOW, which trailed fine wires out the back and got commands sent from the firing point along those wires and were guided only until the wire ran out.

    That, or the Taliban have gotten their hands on some laser-spoofing gear for their high-value targets’ cars, which will make for sleepless nights in Langley.

  6. BoxTurtle says:

    @scribe: I’m guessing that the Taliban has gear that sees the lasers. Otherwise, you have to assume that the first missle missed and warned the driver. I can’t believe that the driver dodges and weaves for the eitire trip, that would stick out like a sore thumb.

    It’s not difficult to detect a laser, just ask Escort. They’ve been selling detectors for years. Given the knowledge of the frequency range of the lasers, I probably have enough stuff in my junk box to build one.

    Boxturtle (You’d LOVE my junk box. There’s stuff in there I inherated from my Grandfathers)

  7. melior says:

    Arming the mujahideen?! Say it isn’t so! And Ronald Raygun’s musty corpse turns over in his grave to laugh and laugh.

  8. scribe says:

    @BoxTurtle: I recall a vignette from a Tom Clancy novel – the one with the secret war with the Japanese – where a villain was trying to watch TV and his channel kept changing. Turned out, his TV remote and the helicopter’s laser target designator worked on the same infrared frequency. In the novel, he never figured that out b/c the helicopter got him first.

  9. scribe says:

    @melior: Was watching (sort of – actually it was in the background) a program the other night about gangs in LA. Turns out, the ultraviolent MS-13 was formed from … wait for it … Salvadorans who left their country during the US-sponsored civil wars/dirty wars of the mid-80s and brought with them the callous disregard for human life and readiness to resort to violence those wars engendered.

    Saint Ronnie is the gift who keeps on giving, even from the grave.

  10. BoxTurtle says:

    I timed it. It took me less than ten minutes to discover that those lasers operate preferentally at 1064 nm, and are adjustable around that wavelength. So the question is why has it taken the Taliban so long to order from Escort? Police lasers work right around 900nm, so 1064nm should be within range of that standard escort.

    Boxturtle (Once again, our latest weapon system can be defeated by a credit card and Ebay)

  11. BoxTurtle says:

    @Jim White: Don’t worry about the black helicopters, citizen. They are there for YOUR protection.

    Boxturtle (Don’t worry about the clicking sound on your phone calls, either)

  12. BoxTurtle says:

    @Jim White: Don’t put too much stock in Jammers. The laser signals are coded and designed to be usable even if jammed. The laser will jump around it’s base wavelength until it finds somethign clear enough. Detection is easy, jamming much less so. You have to saturate the detector across it’s entire bandwidth which takes a lot of energy. The laser only has to find one small slot.

    Boxturtle (If my detector went off while I was in the open, I’d start dodging and duckin’)

  13. scribe says:

    @Jim White: Take the batteries out. Take a pencil eraser and use it to clean the battery contacts inside the remote. Clean up any rubber shreds (shouldn’t be any). Clean the ends of the batteries similarly. Replace the batteries. Should work.
    When you have to worry is when the TV starts doing stuff while the batteries are out of the remote.

  14. Mary says:

    I have no doubts that there are some in Pak intel and/or military who are involved with the Taliban – after all, the US gave a pass to Pakistan when we went into Afghanistan to airlift out a chunk of “their” Taliban.

    But, cynic that I have become, I find the BBC report and its timing all pretty suspicious as well. With the US sending drones out at ever increasing rates, and blanketing the area with NSA surveillance etc. – the BBC is able to put together a wide ranging expose, and make all kinds of contacts over a period of time with multiple Taliban commanders who are all agreeable to meeting up and selling out their Pakistani safehavens. ? And none of them were apparently picked off by drones just as the BBC was driving off?

    I smell fish. Old, icky fish.

  15. Anynomous says:

    This proposition is equivalent to saying that the Viet Cong had to be trained in Cambodia to learn how to fire a gun – or China, or North Vietnam. Jesus. Garbage. The Afghans have been fighting foreigners in the recent iteration for thirty (?) goddamn years. Go read Chivers on the 107 rockets for Christ’s sake! Go read Kipling. The BBC is as corrupt as Fox. This is rank propaganda. In the first place – the category ‘Taliban’ is empty. Were the Korengalis ‘Taliban’? Garbage. Whatever it is that the ISI is doing will not be found in this fakery. Are you awake?

  16. Ahmed says:

    People in Afghanistan knew about Pakistan’s ISI training camps before sep/11. How come such taliban which can not read or write could plan master attacks on Burhanidin Rabani, US embassy. They are planned by ISI and brain washing young Afghans. I believe ISAF must tackle the root of all problems which lies in Pakistan.

  17. alinaustex says:

    Danger Room had a recent post regarding the PRC pushing Pakistan to allow PLA bases in the FATA because of the ongoing attacks against Hans in the former Turkistan . Recently a big car bomb went off in Kashgar killing many civilans. Additionally the Paks wants the PRC to build them a naval base in Gwaidar -at the the end of the Baluach oil pipeline.Would the Indians freak out if the Chinese Navy was operating in the Arabian Sea? It seems to me that there is no good answer to the Taliban unless all major powers in the region agree that the Taleban and its affliates cannot be sponsored by any State .
    I wonder if the PLA would do any better suppressing the Islamic Militants crossing into China if they had FOB ‘s in the FATA ? And could the rouge elements of the ISI still be able to support the Haqqanis network if it is proved up that al Qaida, MET , Mullah Omar et al are supporting the militants in Kashhgar ? In the regional security context is there any chance that the Chinese, Afghanistan, Pakistan & Indian governments could come to to an agreement to breakt the back of the Islamic insurrections that now one way or the other plague them all ?

  18. blueskybigstar says:

    As long as the CIA has a three thousand man army in Pakistan, they must remain the at the top of the suspects list, especially with the reminder of their penchant for false flags and for boy who cried wolf behavior. Never forget that it was CIA agent David Headley who planned, recruited, financed, trained, supplied weapons, drugs and communication equipment, and paid all of those young boy’s families a $100,000 each for the use of their sons on the suicide mission.

  19. blueskybigstar says:

    @BoxTurtle: The United States also has people who have been corrupted or who have infiltrated the ISI, the government, and the military in Pakistan, as well as a 3000 man army there. I believe Pakistan. The U.S. has a history of trying to frame people.

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