Spanish Report Says Pakistan Spy Agency Armed Taliban

A report marked confidential and bearing the official seal of Spain's Defense Ministry charges that Pakistan's spy service was helping arm Taliban insurgents in 2005 for assassination plots against the Afghan government.

The report, which was obtained by Cadena Ser radio and posted on the station's Web site on Wednesday, also says Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency — or ISI — helped the Taliban procure roadside bombs.

It alleges that Pakistan may have provided training and intelligence to the Taliban in camps set up on Pakistani soil. The report says the Pakistani agency planned to have the Taliban use the explosives "to assassinate high-ranking officials."

The August 2005 document does not describe its sources. Cadena Ser did not say how it obtained the report.

Western intelligence agencies have long suspected that elements of Pakistan's spy service have aided the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. But this report appears to be the first leaked to the media that spells out such a connection in writing.

A Pakistani official on Wednesday vehemently denied that any such link existed.

Chief Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the Spanish report was "baseless, unfounded and part of a malicious, well-orchestrated propaganda campaign to malign the ISI."

"ISI is the first line of defense of Pakistan and certain quarters are attempting to weaken our national intelligence system," Abbas said, without elaborating.

In Spain, the Defense Ministry and the prime minister's office said they had no comment on the document.

Fernando Reinares, a terrorism analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid and former chief counterterrorism adviser at Spain's Interior Ministry, said the document appeared to be an internal report intended for high-level officials. Spain has about 800 soldiers deployed in northwest Afghanistan.

The report says "it appears possible" that advanced training camps exist in Pakistan "where the Taliban receive training, help and intelligence from the ISI," and where they are also developing new improvised explosive devices. The report says the Taliban had also been receiving help from Al Qaeda.

Reinares said the report on the alleged ISI-Taliban link is in keeping with information from other Western spy agencies.

"The intelligence services have done nothing more then confirm a reality which has also been reported by other Western agencies," he told The Associated Press. Reinares said Spain has developed a strong military and police intelligence operation in Pakistan, particularly since the deadly terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004 on commuter trains in Madrid.

The ISI spy agency has helped kill or capture several top Al Qaeda leaders since 2001, but there are lingering doubts about its loyalty — not least because its agents helped build up the Taliban in the 1990s.

U.S. intelligence agencies suspect rogue elements may still be giving Taliban militants sensitive information to aid in their growing insurgency in Afghanistan, even though officially Pakistan is a U.S. ally in fighting terrorism.

Some analysts say elements in the spy agency may want to retain the Taliban as potentially helpful against longtime rival India and may believe that Pakistan's strategic interests are best served if Afghanistan remains a weak state.

India and Afghanistan — and reportedly the U.S. — suspect the ISI of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India's Embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Pakistan's army chief this week named a general considered a hawk in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban to head the ISI.

The Taliban has regularly used roadside bombs to attack U.S. troops and Afghan security forces since the beginning of the insurgency following the fall off the movement in 2001.

The explosives used have become increasingly powerful in the past year and can rip through an armored military vehicle and kill everyone inside.