WASHINGTON - The Taliban's widening militant campaign in southern Afghanistan is aided partly allegedly by support from operatives in Pakistan's military intelligence agency, The New York Times reported on Thursday. Citing US government officials, the newspaper said in a front-page story that the support for the Taliban and other militant groups was coordinated by operatives in the S Wing of Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. The support involves money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance, said the officials, who requested anonymity. The Times said there was even evidence ISI operatives were meeting regularly with Taliban commanders for discussions on whether the militant group should intensify or reduce violence before Afghanistan's scheduled August elections. US officials told the Times that proof of the ties came from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. Pakistani officials told the paper they had firsthand knowledge of the ties, which they denied were strengthening the insurgency. Violence in Afghanistan is at its highest level since the 2001 US-led invasion, and the United Nations warned earlier this month it was likely to worsen this year. President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan. They will join 38,000 American troops and 30,000 more from NATO allies and other nations. A US official said on Tuesday that Obama was expected on Friday to announce the results of his administration's review of Afghanistan policy. Pakistani leaders deny any government ties to militant groups and the Times quoted US officials as saying it was unlikely top government officials were coordinating the efforts. The middle-ranking intelligence operatives sometimes cultivate relationships without the approval of senior officials, the paper said. The American officials claim that proof of the ties between the Taliban and Pakistani spies came from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The Pakistani officials interviewed told the Times that they had firsthand knowledge of the connections, though they denied that the ties were strengthening the insurgency. American officials have complained for more than a year about the ISI's support to groups like the Taliban. But the new details, according to the paper, reveal that the spy agency is aiding a broader array of militant networks with more diverse types of support than was previously known - even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI's playing a "double game" had ended. In a sign of just how resigned Western officials are to the ties, the British government has sent several dispatches to Islamabad in recent months asking that the ISI use its strategy meetings with the Taliban to persuade its commanders to scale back violence in Afghanistan before the August presidential election there, one unnamed official claims. "But the inability, or unwillingness, of the embattled civilian government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, to break the ties that bind the ISI to the militants illustrates the complexities of a region of shifting alliances," the Times said. Obama administration officials admit that they are struggling to understand these allegiances as they try to forge a strategy to quell violence in Afghanistan, which has intensified because of a resurgent Taliban. Fighting this insurgency is difficult enough, officials said, without having to worry about an allied spy service's supporting the enemy. But the Pakistanis offered a more nuanced portrait, according to the dispatch. They said the contacts were less threatening than the American officials depicted and were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India. An unnamed senior Pakistani military officer was quoted as saying, "In intelligence, you have to be in contact with your enemy or you are running blind." Meanwhile, stating that Pakistan has a "very unclear and ambiguous" relationship with the Taliban, the US Ambassador-designate said Thursday that allied plans to boost troop strength in Afghanistan and aid will fail unless Islamabad cracks down on extremists. "The ongoing discussions that we have right now, with Pakistan, with Afghanistan and with ourselves, of course, are focusing on this problem. I know that the trilateral initiatives that have begun, under the administration, with Secretary of State Hillary, have appeared to be promising in that regard," Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He Pakistan and its security forces, including the ISI, facilitated the rise of the Taliban, when it first advanced into Afghanistan in the 1990s. And since that time, it has been unclear if ISI has fully dropped its support for Taliban and their extremist allies, he added. Eikenberry said, "We can succeed in Afghanistan, it's true, but if we don't address the problem, the linked problems in Pakistan, then we'll have no lasting success." His comments came as Obama was expected on Friday to unveil his new strategy for turning the tide in the eight-year-old war, which includes sending 17,000 more US troops, unleashing a wave of development aid, and bolstering Afghan security forces, rule of law, and fragile Kabul government. "This is about enabling the Afghans to develop governments and rule of law, enabling the Afghans to develop their own security forces, enabling the Afghans to develop a sustainable economy. When they come together, success would be defined then as an Afghan state strong enough to not become an open safe haven for international terrorism," said Eikenberry. The general emphasised that Washington will redouble its efforts to secure more help from international partners, especially in training and expanding the size of the Afghan police, and in providing agricultural aid to wean farmers off poppy crops. US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Thursday the US needed to improve its intelligence gathering in Afghanistan. "We know a heck of a lot more on Iraq than on Afghanistan," he said. Eikenberry said Pakistan's intelligence agency might still be providing support to the Taliban and other Islamist fighters. AFP adds: Afghanistan's intelligence chief accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping Taliban to carry out attacks in his country like the ones that killed 10 policemen Thursday. Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told the parliament in Kabul that the Pakistani agency - ISI - provides support to the Taliban leadership council in Quetta headed by the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants over the border into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces. The Afghan intelligence chief criticised Pakistan for denying that Omar is based in its territory and said they refuse to crack down on Taliban on their border, viewing them as "a kind of weapon" that can be used in both Afghanistan and India. "The Pakistani government is making excuses by saying these areas are out of their control," said Saleh.