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Afghanistan - News and Discussion
[url="http://abcnews.go.com/WN/cia-resolved-avenge-agents-deaths/story?id=9463880"]Exclusive: CIA Attacker Driven in From Pakistan[/url]
Quote:The suicide bomber who killed at least six Central Intelligence Agency officers in a base along the Afghan-Pakistan border on Wednesday was a regular CIA informant who had visited the same base multiple times in the past, according to someone close to the base's security director.

Suicide bomber who killed seven agents was a regular informant for the CIA.

The informant was a Pakistani and a member of the Wazir tribe from the Pakistani tribal area North Waziristan, according to the same source. The base security director, an Afghan named Arghawan, would pick up the informant at the Ghulam Khan border crossing and drive him about two hours into Forward Operating Base Chapman, from where the CIA operates.

Because he was with Arghawan, the informant was not searched, the source says. Arghawan also died in the attack

Quote:Taliban militants launch attack on Afghan capital


AP | Kabul

Taliban militants struck in the heart of the Afghan capital today, launching suicide attacks at key government targets including the presidential palace and locked security forces in running gun battles, which left nine people, including four attackers dead.

The brazen strike in the city was a clear sign the insurgents plan to escalate their fight as the US and its allies ramp up their own campaign to end the war. At least 40 people were wounded, officials said.

After a series of blasts and more than three hours of ensuing gunfights outside several ministries and inside a shopping mall, President Hamid Karzai said security had been restored to the capital, though search operations continued amid reports that attackers were hiding in the city.

It was the biggest attack in the capital since Oct. 28 when gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide vests stormed a guest house used by UN staff, killing at least 11 people including three UN staff.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that 20 armed militants, including some with suicide vests, had entered Kabul to target the presidential palace and other government buildings in the center of the capital.

Explosions and heavy machine-gun fire rattled the city for hours. Debris was strewn on the streets, which were quickly abandoned by crowds that normally fill the area. Defense Ministry spokesman Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi said a child and a policeman were killed. The Ministry of Public Health later said five people - a civilian and four security forces - were killed and 30 others wounded.

Two suicide bombers later detonated their explosives and Afghan troops killed two other militants in the mall, Bashary said. He said other militants were holed up on the top floor, but officials later said the building had been cleared.

NATO, which said international forces worked with Afghan forces to areas of the capital, said Afghan troops had killed at least two armed insurgents while clearing a building at a shopping center.

Elsewhere in the capital, Afghan troops also surrounded an area housing a well-known cinema and opened fire on militants believed hiding inside. A police officer at the site, Ghulam Ghaus, said the fighting ended after the last suicide attacker inside blew himself up. It wasn't clear how many others were in the building.
Quote:Opinion poll: 71% Afghans favour India, 2% Pakistan


PTIWednesday, January 20, 2010 19:57 IST

New Delhi: Reflecting tremendous goodwill of its soft power in Afghanistan, India has been voted as the most favoured country, getting 71% votes in an opinion poll there while Pakistan was viewed favourably by a meagre 2% of the people.

The poll, commissioned by BBC, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and German Broadcasting company ARD, showed India was way ahead of all other countries, including the US which is leading the war against terror there.

In the poll conducted between December 11 and 23 last year, Germany polled 59% and stood at second spot. The US came third with 51% polls, Iran followed with 50% votes and Britain got 39%.

Pakistan managed only two per cent votes, according to the survey conduced by Kabul-based Afghan Centre for Socio-Economic Opinion Research (ACSOR).

The vote in favour of India is seen as a reflection of the goodwill because of the developmental activities undertaken by it on a large scale in the war-ravaged country.

India has developmental assistance programmes to the tune of US$ 1.3 billion that covers road construction, healthcare, power sector and across-the-board capacity building in Afghanistan.

The results echoed the findings of a gallup survey of Afghanistan released in November in which 56% of the people voted for India when asked which group or country played the best role in resolving the situation in Afghanistan.

In fact, India surpassed even the UN and NATO by a per cent in this regard.

[URL="http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWFiles2009.nsf/FilesByRWDocUnidFilename/SNAA-7V93C4-full_report.pdf/$File/full_report.pdf"]The Afghan-Pakistan War: The Shifting Nature of the Threat[/URL]

[url="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/11_01_10_afghanpoll.pdf"]Looks like Indian media is misleading poll result[/url]
Clearly there are no takers for India’s stand that the distinction between “good” and “bad” Taliban is spurious. New Delhi has been urging caution on the plan to classify the Taliban and pointed out the dangers of integrating fighters who might not have given up the Taliban ideology. Though New Delhi’s reconstruction effort in Afghanistan has attracted attention, the message from India is clearly not hitting the mark. Though India does not want an expanded role in Afghanistan, the current developments are leading to serious introspection.

Quote: Monday, February 1, 2010

Bad news from Afghanistan

Balbir K Punj


A combination of events with respect to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan clearly shows that we are better off relying on our own resources to counter the rising threat of Islamism. However much we may like to avoid giving this threat a religious label, it is increasingly becoming difficult not to do so.

Let us consider the evidence first. According to the New York Times, senior American military officers are disappointed over the Pakistani Army’s announcement last week that it will not launch any new attacks against the Taliban in the next six to 12 months. At the same time, the thinking that the war against the Taliban is futile and that it is better to come to some sort of an understanding with the terrorists to cut losses and get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, is fast gaining ground. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also seeking the removal of names of some senior Taliban leaders from the UN’s terror list as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the Islamists.

The UN’s special representative in Kabul, Mr Kai Eide, too is pushing for face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders, many of whom are hiding in Pakistan. As Pakistan still has considerable sway over the Taliban, once they are back in power in Kabul, Islamabad will regain its strategic depth. All this while Pakistan’s strategy has been to reacquire full control over Afghanistan through a proxy regime and reverse the Indian presence in that country.

American and Nato leaders who are promoting the idea of negotiations with the Taliban believe that once they offer jobs and money to the jihadis they will gradually give up the path of extremism. Such fanciful notions ignore the basic characteristic of Islamic extremism that rejects any modern concept of progress. These policy alternatives also overlook the fact that terror masterminds are not poor Muslims who have been misled by promises of money or a better life but belong to well-to-do, educated families like the Nigerian bomber who tried to blow up an American passenger aircraft last Christmas. To be fair, the UN special representative is also reported to have said, “I don’t believe that it’s as simple as saying that these are people who are unemployed, and if we find them employment they will go our way. Reintegration by itself is not enough.”

Nonetheless, it is safe to say that US President Barack Obama’s AfPak policy is in tatters. The other day, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani responded to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s warning that any further attack of the 26/11 type mounted from Pakistani soil would have serious consequences on India-Pakistan relations by saying: “We ourselves are targets of attack by extremists. If we cannot protect our own people, how can we prevent attacks on India?”

Six months back the Americans were pushing Pakistan to eliminate the Taliban base in Waziristan. The Pakistani Army was told that economic and military aid would depend upon action against the jihadis. However, instead of falling in line, the Pakistani Army dismissed the terms and conditions attached to the $ 7.5 billion American aid package as well as its military aid component.

This has placed the US in a tough situation wherein its key non-Nato ally in the region is refusing to cooperate in eliminating the Taliban so that the Karzai regime in Kabul could have some breathing space. Needless to say that this is all part of Pakistan’s strategy to frustrate the US into getting out of Afghanistan.

The present situation suits both the Taliban and the Pakistani Army. Besides, it fits well with the global aim of jihadi Islam. Recently, Pakistan advised the separatist movement leaders in Kashmir, including the moderate faction of the Hurriyat, not to accept New Delhi’s invitation for talks on the State’s political future. This has made clear the real masters of the separatists.

Today, the UPA Government is seen as so ineffective that even Nepal has not bothered to respond to its request to allow Indian air marshals on board Air India flights bound for and from that country. Meanwhile, intelligence inputs continue to reveal the possibility of terrorist attacks on our cities and sensitive installations in the near future, keeping the security apparatus on tenterhooks.

It is no secret that groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed are very much part of the Pakistani Army’s extended military assets against India. And irrespective of what anybody says, it is a fact that Pakistan continues to view India as its enemy No 1. The latest we have in a series of intelligence inputs is that Pakistan-based extremists are planning a massive attack against India and that they could be using gliders for this purpose.

With the distinct possibility of the US throwing in the towel in Afghanistan, New Delhi will have to rethink its strategy on tackling Islamist terror groups. Noted American journalist Steve Coll, who has written two important books on the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation — Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens — has rightly said that “India’s security problems are graver than America’s in relation to jihadi terrorism”.

For us the rise of Islamist terror is an immediate and present danger. We are most vulnerable to the appeal of jihadi triumphalism. Either we understand this ugly reality and act or face the prospect of seeing our free, open and plural society vanish. The choices that we make today in this regard will have significant consequences for our future generations. We must act now before it is too late
Couple of reports from Nightwatch.

Quote:Pakistan-Afghanistan: Security. Pakistani officials said they have arrested seven of the 15 members of the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban's senior leadership council, the Christian Science Monitor reported today. Officials said that in addition to the previously reported arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Maulavi Abdul Kabir and Mullah Muhammad Younis, arrests were made of Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf. {Total seven out of Fifteen}

If accurate the Pakistan-based leadership of the Afghan Taliban movement has been effectively decapitated. The remainder must be relocating daily to prevent capture. That reinforces the hypothesis that Pakistan has decided to reassert and protect its national security interest in Afghanistan by way of influencing power sharing negotiations.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news agency reported today that Pakistani officials have assured they would hand over the seized Taliban leaders, including Taliban deputy Mullah Berader, to the Afghan government after the latter demanded their custody.

Mullah Abdol Ghani Beradar, deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, and Mullah Abdossalam were arrested by security forces from Karachi and Faisalabad in Pakistan. An official of the Interior Ministry in Pakistan, who did not want to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News that Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar visited Pakistan and discussed the issue with his Pakistani counterpart.

He said Atmar demanded the Pakistani officials hand over the arrested Taliban leaders to the Afghan government. He said the Pakistani authorities had assured they would soon transfer the detainees into the custody of Afghan authorities, after Pakistan completes its interrogations.

Atmar is visiting Pakistan to attend a tripartite meeting among officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Muller is also visiting Pakistan.

When contacted for comments, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry Zmaray Bashari said it would be premature to mention that the arrested Taliban leaders would be handed over to Afghanistan in the near future.

Comment: Discussions today with Brilliant and Knowledgeable Readers theorized that if Pakistan hands Berader to the Afghans that would suggest a trade for value. Pakistan would expect to be consulted, if not included, in power sharing talks. Berader, in this scenario, is acting as the emissary of Mullah Omar, but his transfer to Afghan custody is the perfect cover story for his acting as the go-between, with Pakistani assistance, to be sure.
Four Indians killed in Taliban attack on Kabul

26 Feb 2010, 1610 hrs IST, IANS

KABUL: Four Indians were among the 15 people killed when Taliban bombers equipped with suicide vests and automatic rifles attacked a hotel and a

guesthouse in central Kabul Friday, officials said.

[url="http://www.hindustantimes.com/9-Indians-killed-in-Kabul-suicide-attack/H1-Article1-513242.aspx"]9 Indians killed in Kabul suicide attack[/url]

Moron Singh still want to talk with Pakistan.
Quote:Indian Embassy sources identified six of the dead Indians as Major

Dr Laishram Jyotin Singh of Army Medical Corps, Major Deepak Yadav of Army Education Corps, engineer Bhola Ram, tabla player Nawab Khan, staffer of Kandahar Consulate Nitish Chibber and ITBP constable Roshan Lal.

Several Indians, including doctors, paramedics, NGO workers, embassy officials, musicians and Power Grid officials were missing.

One of the first persons to race to the Noor guest house after the attack was a young lady officer of the Indian Army. Captain Madhumita Mitali, staying at another guest house, ran there and pulled out several of her wounded colleagues.
[url="http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/14-pakistani-group-behind-kabul-attacks-official-zj-09"]Pakistani group behind Kabul attacks: official[/url]
Quote:KABUL: An Afghan intelligence official has put the blame on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for staging the deadly car bomb and suicide attacks that targeted foreigners last week in Kabul, reports AP.

The assertion that the attacks in the Afghan capital were the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Taiba — the same militants that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist assaults that killed 166 — could jeopardize recently restarted peace talks between Pakistan and India.

The Afghan Taliban insurgents already claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed 16 people, including six Indians, after a car bomb exploded and gunmen wearing suicide vests hidden under burqas stormed residential hotels popular with foreigners. At least 56 people were wounded.

Saeed Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his agency has evidence that Pakistanis, specifically Lashkar-e-Taiba, were involved in the attacks. He also said one of the attackers was heard [color="#FF0000"]speaking Urdu, a Pakistani[/color] language.

Ansari said last week's Kabul attacks bore similarities to two suicide bombings at the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 and the car bomb attack in January at a residential hotel in one of the safest neighborhoods in the capital.

Police said initially that two suicide attackers were involved in Friday's attack. Ansari told three private television stations that there were four gunmen with Kalashnikov rifles and suicide vests — and that they wore burqas, the all-encompassing veil for women, to hide their gear. He said one attacker stayed to detonate a van packed with explosives, while the other three spread out and entered two hotels, where they fired on guests and then set off their explosives.

On Friday, about 2 1/2 hours after the attacks began, an Afghan Taliban spokesman telephoned a reporter with The Associated Press to claim responsibility. He said foreigners were the target, but did not specifically mention Indians.

Ansari, however, said the Taliban did not have the logistical capability for the assault, saying the gunmen appeared to have [color="#FF0000"]detailed knowledge, including names, of Indian guests at the hotels[/color]. He also claimed the Taliban ''had no knowledge'' of the Kabul attacks up to five hours after they began.

''We are very close to the exact proof and evidence that the attack on the Indian guest house ... is not the work of the Afghan Taliban but this attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba network,'' Ansari said in an interview aired on Tolo TV, RTA and Shamshad broadcast stations in Kabul.

The victims killed in the assaults included[color="#FF0000"] six Indians, one Italian diplomat, a French filmmaker, three Afghan police and four Afghan civilians[/color] and one body too dismembered to identify.

The Kabul attack came a day after India and Pakistan held their first official talks since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which prompted New Delhi to pull out of the peace process. India insisted during the talks Thursday that Pakistan needed to make more aggressive efforts to rein in anti-Indian insurgents there.

Pakistan is trying seven men on charges that they planned and carried out the Mumbai attacks, but critics say Lashkar-e-Taiba continues to operate relatively freely.

Friday's assault was the deadliest in Afghanistan's capital since Oct. 8, when a suicide car bomber killed 17 people outside the Indian Embassy. A suicide car bomber killed more than 60 people in an attack at the gates of the Indian Embassy in July 2008 — an attack that India alleges Pakistan's main spy agency was involved in.

But New Delhi did not immediately blame Pakistan after Friday's assault.

India sent a three-member team by air force jet Saturday to work with Afghan authorities in the investigation, Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad said.

Prasad said Tuesday night that Afghan authorities had not yet told him Lashkar-e-Taiba was the prime suspect but added that he was not surprised. “They were looking in that direction,” he said.

He would not speculate on whether the allegations might derail the Pakistan-India talks.

Neither the governments of India nor Pakistan commented on the allegations. Spokesmen for Lashkar-e-Taiba could not be reached.
Indians were hunted out in Kabul attack: Washington Post

Pakistani militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) orchestrated last week’s deadly attack on two Kabul guesthouses with the suicide bombers searching for Indian victims, the Washington Post reported Wednesday citing an Afghan intelligence official.

Investigators had concluded that LeT was involved in the attack based on evidence that it was carried out by a team of suicide bombers who spoke Urdu and who were searching for Indian victims, it said in a report from Kabul citing Afghan intelligence spokesman Sayed Ansari.

“Afghan officials ‘very close to the evidence’ had determined that one of the bombers involved in Friday’s Kabul attack yelled, ‘Where is the Indian director?’ as he stormed one of guesthouses,”Ansari was quoted as saying.

Others had also sought out Indians, Ansari said.

“This kind of information, where the Indians are, is not the ability of the Afghan Taliban to know,” said Ansari as cited by the influential US daily.

The Afghan Taliban had previously asserted responsibility for the assault saying it was targeting foreigners. Six Indian nationals, including two army doctors and an engineer, were among those killed in the attack, as were eight Afghans, an Italian diplomat and a French filmmaker.

The assessment, if true, could signal a departure for the group, blamed for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, which has long focused on fighting India over Kashmir, the daily said.

The Post said the claim by Afghan intelligence could not be verified Tuesday, and it contradicts the conclusions of other observers. A US military intelligence official cited by the Post said he believed the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Afghan militant group, was behind the attack.

Indian officials have said they suspect that the two groups worked in concert to stage the raid.

“Still, the involvement of LeT would have significant implications. It could undermine fragile peace efforts between longtime foes Pakistan and India, whose foreign secretaries met last week,” the Post said.

India had previously implicated Pakistan in the 2008 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, saying Pakistani intelligence had collaborated with militants, it noted.

The Post quoted Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the top US military intelligence official in Afghanistan, as saying that a growing number of the LeT’s fighters are streaming

into that country’s south for combat experience.

“They are aligning with the Taliban,” it said citing Mohammad Saad, a retired Pakistani brigadier and security analyst.

Saad said that several members of LeT are training with associates of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan, but that language challenges have forced most of them to work alongside Afghan fighters inside Afghanistan.

India suspends medical mission in Kabul

Quote:Operations of the Indian medical mission in Kabul have been suspended as much of its staff were either injured or killed in last week's terror attack in the Afghan capital.

Pakis won this round.
Scanning at US airport: FATA delegation returns home

[Image: Scanning-at-US-airport-FATA-delegation-r...50x131.jpg]

A six-member delegation of the National Assembly and Senate returned to Pakistan in protest after refusing a body scan at the Washington International Airport.

Head of the delegation Senator Abbas Khan Afridi said they were asked for a body-scan but they refused, as they considered it an insult to parliamentarians of a sovereign country.

He said they were informed before their arrival in the US that they would not face any such discrimination during their visit. The delegation comprised Senator Hafiz Rasheed, Member National Assembly Akhwand Zada Chattan, Sajid Hussain Toori, Muhammad Kamran and Jawad.

According to ministry of home affairs (MHA) sources, India may scale down these operations over a period of 18 months following the recent attack on India nationals in Kabul.

The move comes days after the spate of attacks on Indians in Afghanistan. In the latest attack in Kabul, six Indians were killed last week.

Sources claim that an official advisory on the matter might be issued soon.

[url="http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=27714"]Pakistan, US agree on new Afghan set-up[/url]
Quote:ISLAMABAD: A strategic shift in Pakistan’s three-decade old Afghan policy has taken a quiet but effective shape as Islamabad has successfully negotiated a peace plan with Mustafa Zahir Shah, the grandson of late King Zahir Shah, who would play a key role in future political dispensation comprising all ethnic groups. “It is a strategic coup by Pakistan against rising Indian influence in Afghanistan,” an analyst tartly remarked commenting on the development. As Islamabad has agreed to untangle the complicated jihadist network fabricated by General Ziaul Haq in 1979, it has acquired ‘iron-clad’ guarantees from Washington and other world capitals to gain advantages not only in regional political and economic affairs but also to get peaceful nuclear technology related benefits, sources privy to the most significant development taking place in the region in more than quarter a century, claimed.

Prime Minister Gilani’s spokesperson Shabbir Anwar, when contacted, said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan. “We will do whatever we can in strengthening of the political institutions in Afghanistan.”

Anwar, however, said the Foreign Office would be in a better position to comment on such a development. The foreign office spokesman could not be reached despite repeated attempts as his cell phone was switched off.

“Karzai is fast becoming a seat-warmer for Mustafa Zahir Shah,” a diplomat commented. “But the young leader will have to perform a very complicated balancing act by satisfying both sides of the ethnic divides in the world’s one of the least governable countries.”

To continue to have a political foothold in Afghanistan and counter Pakistan’s thriving liaison with Mustafa Zahir Shah and the Northern Alliance, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Saudi Arabia to get help in establishing contacts with Taliban. Saudi Arabia reportedly has refused to oblige.

According to the clinched deal, Islamabad would help cobble together a consensus political dispensation in Kabul comprising all ethnic groups, help ensure its stability, dismantle the dreaded militant infrastructure and carefully comb its security apparatus to avert the rise of radicalism. On all counts, Pakistan has already started delivering and brick-by-brick demolition of Jehadi infrastructure has already set in motion. A high-level Pakistani delegation held a final round of negotiations with Mustafa Zahir Shah and Northern Alliance in Kabul a couple of weeks ago.


In return for the success of this policy, the sources claimed, Washington has given guarantees to Islamabad that it would support Pakistan’s efforts to buy nuclear power plants from France for peaceful purposes, limit India’s political role in Afghanistan and Pakistan would have the right to buy oil and gas on less-than-market price from the proposed oil and gas pipelines originating from Central Asia and Afghanistan to India. The royalty that Pakistan would earn on these energy pipelines passing through its territory would be in addition to the above benefits.

Clinton ver 2.0

I hope Moron Singh under influence will refuse for any oil/gas deal through Pakistan.

I have little hope from world biggest Moron.
India's big handicap (and also saving grace) is not having contiguous borders with Afghanistan. Despite the apparent setback, India must dig in. it should continue with its development work which is bound to cost more and be more proactive in military training. Mr Karzai has not yet accepted Gen Kayani’s offer of training the Afghan Army, whose Chief, Gen Bismillah Khan, is keen to send platoon to battalion size units for training in India. But India has preferred to maintain a low profile. http://www.dailypioneer.com/242717/India...istan.html
[url="http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100513/wl_asia_afp/afghanistanunresteconomydrugsharvest_20100513082447"]Afghanistan opium poppies hit by mysterious disease[/url]
Quote:The farmers and other experts cited high rainfall in some areas, drought in others, free seeds for alternatives such as wheat and good prices for food crops, and a mysterious disease withering poppies in some areas.

While some farmers have reportedly accused the United States and Britain of spraying their crops with chemicals, the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said disease was the likely culprit.

Tests by the interior ministry were inconclusive and more were being carried out, said the agency's representative in Kabul, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, adding that "plagues, pests, blight" had hit Afghanistan's poppy crop in 2002 and 2006.

"Natural phenomenon cannot be excluded, as happens to wheat, corn, apples. It is part of nature," Lemahieu said.
Quote:US spy ring at work in Pakistan, Afghanistan


IANS | Washington

US military officials are still using private detectives to track Taliban guerrillas in Pakistan and Afghanistan in defiance of defence department norms, The New York Times has reported.

Despite concerns about the legality of the operation, top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report said Saturday quoting American officials and businessmen.

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information.

The inputs were used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. It was hastily shut down once a probe began.

"Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence," The Times said.

Under the Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire private agencies for spying in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Military officials said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region, signed off on the operation in January 2009.

The private security experts, called contractors, were supposed to provide only broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region, and information that could be used for "force protection", they said.

The contractors' reports are delivered via an encrypted e-mail service to an "information operations fusion cell", located at the military base at Kabul International Airport. There, they are fed into classified military computer networks, then used for future military operations or intelligence reports, the report said quoting officials.

Some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation appeared to morph into traditional spying activities. And they pointed out that the supervisor who set up the contractor network, Michael D. Furlong, was now under investigation.

But a review of the programme by The Times found that Furlong's operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before.

The contractors were being paid under a $22 million deal, the review shows.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said that the programme "remains under investigation by multiple offices within the defence department", so it would be inappropriate to answer specific questions about who approved the operation or why it continues.

"I assure you we are committed to determining if any laws were broken or policies violated," he was quoted as saying.

A senior defence official said that the Pentagon recently decided not to renew the contract, which expires at the end of May.

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