Pakistan sends supplies to Taliban 

By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20011031-23126172.htm

The Taliban militia is receiving military and other supplies covertly from Pakistan despite the Islamabad government's backing for American military operations, according to U.S. officials.

The military goods, including ammunition and fuel, are being sent with the help of elements of the Pakistani government, said officials familiar with intelligence reports of the transfers.

Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the trade is approved by officials of the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence service (ISI). The ISI, in particular, is said to have close ties with the Taliban regime.

The trade is said to take place at night by trucks. The goods travel from Quetta to the Pakistani border town of Chaman and then on to Kandahar, a known Taliban stronghold.

"There are two border control regimes: One before sundown and one after sundown," said one official.

The trade violates a resolution by the United Nations imposed in December that bars arms transfers to Afghanistan or the ruling Taliban militia.

The continuing support for the Taliban by Pakistan's intelligence service highlights the difficulties faced by Islamabad in supporting U.S. military operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist training camps.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf several weeks ago fired ISI chief Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed who was viewed as insufficiently loyal.

Gen. Musharraf said during the recent visit to Pakistan by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that his government would provide intelligence, overflight rights and logistical support "as long as the operation" in Afghanistan goes on.

It could not be learned whether the illicit trade is approved by the Pakistan government or is taking place behind the back of Gen. Musharraf.

A Pakistani Embassy spokesman denied the government was involved in any arms shipments or supplies to the Taliban. "This is certainly not true," said Mian Asad Hayauddin, the spokesman.

Mr. Hayauddin said, however, that the border with Afghanistan is porous, especially in the southern area and that local tribes are known to conduct cross-border trade.

Asked about foreign military supplies to the Taliban, a senior defense official said recently, "We know of no significant aid organized aid from a foreign state." The official would not answer when asked to detail the aid.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Staff, confirmed that B-52 bombers are being used to attack Taliban troops and terrorist training camps.

New reports from Afghanistan have shown U.S. bombing raids using 500-pound bombs in areas north of Kabul.

"The B-52s are being utilized in areas all over the country, including on Taliban forces in the North," said Adm. Stufflebeem. He declined to elaborate on the targets of the B-52 bombers but disputed that the raids were "carpet bombing" high-altitude bomb drops that were used in the Vietnam War.

"I think it's an inaccurate term," said Adm. Stufflebeem. "It's an old expression. Heavy bombers have the capacity to carry large loads of weapons, and oftentimes if a target presents itself either in an engagement zone, or when directed, it's possible to release an entire load of bombs at once, in which case the real formal term for that is called a 'longstick,' which has also been called carpet bombing."

The use of B-52s "is part of our campaign," he said. "We do use it and have used it, and we'll use it when we need to."

The use of the B-52s in area bombing raids has followed the arrival in the past few days of U.S. troops who are assisting the opposition Northern Alliance by helping to identify targets and directing U.S. air strikes.

Pentagon officials said the U.S. soldiers have helped make the bombing raids more effective.

U.S. intelligence officials said the Pakistani government of Gen. Musharraf is struggling against internal opposition from hard-line Islamic elements within the military and intelligence service that are sympathetic to the Taliban. "The Taliban is a creature of the ISI," one official said.

Two Indian newspapers reported last month that Indian intelligence services said that Pakistani military-ISI elements were helping the Taliban with military supplies, including aviation fuel and ammunition.

The Pioneer newspaper of New Delhi stated that Pakistan military and intelligence officials are based in Afghanistan and are assisting the Taliban military forces.

The Deccan Herald of Bangalore, quoting a classified Indian intelligence report, stated that the arms from Pakistan to the Taliban were being sent disguised as United Nations humanitarian relief supplies.

Adm. Stufflebeem said Taliban "command and control" the system used to communicate and direct orders to troops has been "cut" and "degraded."

"They're having extreme difficulty communicating one to another," Adm. Stufflebeem said. "Mullah Omar is still their leader, their commander. They are still attempting to be able to communicate with Mullah Omar. They are also trying to be resupplied and reinforced, and they're having difficulties in all of that. We believe that that puts a terrific amount of stress on their military capability as their regional commanders, who have been used to a lot of top-down control, may not be getting that now."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, meanwhile, leaves today for Russia and Central Asia. In Moscow, he will discuss arms-control issues and he will then travel to undisclosed Central Asian nations for talks with leaders on the operations in Afghanistan.

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