KABUL/WASHINGTON – (Reuters) – Pakistan was actively collaborating with the Taliban in Afghanistan while accepting U.S. aid, new U.S. military reports showed, a disclosure likely to increase the pressure on Washington’s embattled ally.
The revelations by the organization Wikileaks emerged as Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of greater NATO casualties in Afghanistan as violence mounts over the summer.
It also came as the Taliban said they were holding captive one of two U.S. servicemen who strayed into insurgent territory, and that the other had been killed. The reported capture will further erode domestic support for America’s nine-year war.
Documents leaked by Wikileaks said representatives from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence met directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize militant networks fighting U.S. soldiers.
The White House condemned the leak, saying it could threaten national security and endanger the lives of Americans. Pakistan said leaking unprocessed reports from the battlefield was irresponsible.
U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones said the leak would not affect “our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan”.
The revelations were contained in more than 90,000 classified documents which U.S. officials focused on the period leading to the launch of President Barack Obama’s Afghan strategy last December, when he authorized deployment of 30,000 additional troops.
Violence in Afghanistan is at its highest of the 9-year-old war as the thousands of extra U.S. troops step up their campaign to drive insurgents out of their traditional heartland in the south.
“As we continue our force levels and our operations over the summer … we will likely see further tough casualties and levels of violence,” Admiral Mullen told reporters in Kabul on Sunday.
The United States has repeatedly urged Pakistan to hunt down militant groups, including some believed to have been nurtured by the ISI as strategic assets in Afghanistan and against arch rival India. Islamabad says it is doing all it can to fight the militancy, adding it was a victim of terrorism itself.
MISSING US SOLDIERS
Two U.S. servicemen were reported missing on Friday after they failed to return in a vehicle they had taken from their compound in Kabul, the NATO-led force said.
A spokesman for the NATO-led force declined to comment on the Taliban’s announcement it was holding one of the men, both from the U.S. Navy.
The Navy described both men as still missing.
“We have the body of the dead soldier and the other one who is alive. We have taken them to a safe place,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Rumors circulated in local and international media about the fate of the missing men and how they had managed to stray into an insurgent-controlled area in Logar province, a short but dangerous 100 km (60 miles) drive south of the capital. One provincial official said alcohol was found in their vehicle.
Last month was the deadliest for foreign troops since 2001, with more than 100 killed, and civilian deaths have also risen as ordinary Afghans are increasingly caught in the crossfire.
The only other foreign soldier believed held by the Taliban is Idaho National Guardsman Bowe Bergdahl, whose capture in June last year triggered a massive manhunt. His captors have issued videos of him denouncing the war, in what the U.S. military has called illegal propaganda.