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Afghan war document leak: US scrambles to save face

Source: PTI
July 27, 2010 16:00 IST
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The United States may seek to gain leverage from the WikiLeaks disclosures about the Inter Services Intelligence's links with the Taliban and the Al Qaeda to make Islamabad act tougher on militant groups on its soil.

"This is now in the open," a senior Barack Obama administration official said, referring to the 92,000 documents of the US defence department's war in Afghanistan made public by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks.

"It is a reality now. In some ways, it makes it easier for us to tell Pakistan that they have to help us," the New York Times quoted the official as saying.

"The documents seem to lay out rich new details of connections between the Taliban and other militant groups and Pakistan's main spy agency," the paper said.

It quoted several administration officials privately expressing the view that they might be able to use these leaks and their description of a sometimes duplicitous Pakistani ally to pressurise Islamabad to cooperate more fully with the US on counter-terrorism.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that more needs to be done by Pakistan as the status quo was not acceptable. Gibbs said that Pakistan should not expect a blank cheque from the US in the fight against terror, and progress is to be made in addressing the issue of the safe havens of extremists operating in the country.

There is a backdrop of mistrust and wariness between US forces and Pakistan's military intelligence, other US media reports said, claiming that the new leaks could lead to a near freeze in cooperation between US agencies and ISI or only exchanges on a need-to-know basis.

The NYT quoted leading Democrats as saying that while the disclosures were not altogether new, "the details underscored deep suspicions they have harboured towards the ISI".

"Some of these documents reinforce a longstanding concern of mine about the supporting role of some Pakistani officials in the Afghan insurgency," Senator Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Times.

Levin, who recently visited Pakistan, said he had confronted senior Pakistani leaders about ISI's continuing ties to the militant groups.

Times said the disclosure of a six-year archive of classified military documents had increased pressure on President Barack Obama to defend his military strategy.

The disclosures have landed at a crucial moment when US forces are facing difficulties on the ground with mounting casualties and people have begun to question Washington's policy on Afghanistan.

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