A leaked NATO report suggests that the Pakistani security services are helping the Afghan Taliban in their insurgency program, and that even Afghan lawmakers want to sign up with the Taliban.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services, according to a secret Nato report seen by the BBC.

The leaked report, derived from thousands of interrogations, claims the Taliban remain defiant and have wide support among the Afghan people.

It alleges that Pakistan knows the locations of senior Taliban leaders […]

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says the report – on the state of the Taliban – fully exposes for the first time the relationship between the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) and the Taliban […]

In a damning conclusion, the document says that in the last year there has been unprecedented interest, even from members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban cause.

We already know that the ISI has worked with militant forces in the past, so the revelations here are little more than confirmation. But there are other claims in the report, including the idea that the Taliban are positioning themselves to take over Afghanistan after NATO departs.

The U.S. military said in a secret report that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw, raising the prospect of a major failure of Western policy after a costly war.

Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, confirmed the existence of the document, reported on Wednesday by Britain’s Times newspaper and the BBC.

But he said it was not a strategic study.

“The classified document in question is a compilation of Taliban detainee opinions,” he said. “It’s not an analysis, nor is it meant to be considered an analysis.”

I think you have to consider the source here. NATO wrote the report, and someone with access to NATO leaked it, like the US military. I think Jim White is heading down the right path here – the report is designed to raise the spectre of a Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, and prevent a withdrawal. That’s true even though, as this NATO spokesman says, it’s basically a compendium of detainee statements.

The information contained in this new leak gives further support for my thinking on the reasoning behind the information fed to the New York Times for their January 20 article, when I said “The story appears to me to be presented from the angle of military higher-ups who don’t want to withdraw from Afghanistan and point to the failed training of Afghan forces to support their argument that we must stay there.” In much the same way, this report, which points out that the Taliban will retake Afghanistan shortly after we leave, supports the conclusion that we must stay there to “win” what President Obama has called our “war of necessity“.

For a President who has put so much effort into punishing those who leak sensitive information (well, at least whistleblowers who leak), Obama now appears to me to be faced with a military that is engaged in the selective release of information that is designed to make it impossible for him to continue his plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Will there be any punishment for these two recent leaks, or are they some “multidimensional chess” setting the stage for Obama to throw up his hands and declare that we can’t leave after all?

I’m not sure Obama is the target for the military. Remember that last week, France said they would pull combat units out of the NATO force a year early, in 2013, and Nicolas Sarkozy, in full re-election campaign mode, stood with Hamid Karzai to say that the withdrawal ought to be pushed up a year. That appears to me to be the real focus here. Rather than delaying withdrawal, the current dynamic is accelerating it. So someone who wants the war to continue leaks a document that says the Taliban will rush in upon any foreign occupier exit. Obviously the imminent peace talks between the US and the Taliban play a role here as well, because this information could stiffen Taliban resolve. But I think the bigger threat is the rearguard action from the French.

Let’s play out the logic here. If the leaker truly believes that Afghanistan is doomed to Taliban rule if NATO walks away, even after, by the end of 2013, TWELVE YEARS of occupation, doesn’t that say something about the ability of the NATO forces to control events in Afghanistan, or rather the lack thereof? So the argument is, let’s stay in Afghanistan so we don’t have to see defeat in Afghanistan? For how many years would such a strategy be tenable?

I don’t see why anyone should make policy prescriptions from a non-analytical document of rote information from prisoners under duress. But the motivations behind the leak are intriguing.

David Dayen

David Dayen