ISI-trained suicide bomber in Afghan custody

Islamabad: The Afghan intelligence service is holding a young man who alleges he was recruited earlier this year by Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence and trained to be a suicide bomber to target Western coalition forces, according to a new BBC documentary.

The unnamed young man, being held in a jail on the outskirts of Kabul, said he was trained to be a suicide bomber in the "Taliban`s intensifying military campaign against the Western coalition forces". Preparations for his mission were overseen by an ISI officer in a camp in Pakistan, he said. After 15 days training, the man was sent into Afghanistan.

"There were three of us. We were put into a black vehicle with black windows. The police did not stop the car because it was obviously ISI. No-one dares stop their cars. They told me. You will receive your explosive waistcoat, and then go and explode," he said.

The man changed his mind at the last minute and was captured by the Afghan intelligence service, according to the documentary "Secret Pakistan" which explores accusations by CIA officials and Western diplomats that Islamabad is failing to live up to its alliances in the war on terror.

Pakistan has often been accused of playing a double game, acting as a US ally in public while secretly training and arming its enemy in Afghanistan. Islamabad has repeatedly denied these claims. The BBC documentary?s makers, however, said they had spoken to a number of middle-ranking, and still active, Taliban commanders who provided detailed evidence of how the ISI rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.

Those who claim that Pakistan`s hidden hand has shaped the Afghan conflict fear the same is now true of negotiations for peace. Last year, in Karachi, Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban`s second-in-command, was captured by the ISI. Secretly, Baradar had made contact with the Afghan government to discuss a deal that would end the war. He had done so without the ISI`s permission and he was detained "to bring him back under control", according to one British diplomat.

More recently, Hawa Nooristani, a member of Afghanistan`s High Peace Council, says she was called to a secret meeting. Waiting for her was a commander from the Haqqani network, which first brought suicide bombing to Afghanistan. To her astonishment, he said he wanted peace talks.

"He said it was vital Pakistan intelligence knew nothing of the meeting. He said not to disclose it because Pakistan does not want peace with Afghanistan and even now they are training new Taliban units," Nooristani said.

"He was also scared that the Pakistanis will arrest him because he lives in Pakistan and he said it would be easy for them to arrest him," she said.

The Afghan government began peace talks with the Taliban but these were abandoned after its chief negotiator, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by a suicide bomber purporting to be a Taliban envoy. Any future peace talks will have to be concluded with Pakistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said.

To American policy advisers like Riedel, the message is clear: "The ISI may not be able to deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table, but they can certainly spoil any negotiations process. So far, there`s very little sign, that I`ve seen, that Pakistan is interested in a political deal."

While denying links to the Taliban, Pakistan insists that it is doing no more than what any country would do in similar circumstances. "We cannot disregard our long-term interest because this is our own area," said chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a recent visit to Islamabad that the Pakistanis can "either be helpful, indifferent or harmful".

But there are those like Riedel who fear that the forces unleashed in 10 years of war may yet come to haunt the whole world: "There is probably no worse nightmare, for America, for Europe, for the world, in the 21st century than if Pakistan gets out of control under the influence of extremist Islamic forces, armed with nuclear weapons. The stakes here are huge."