/ 29 July 2010

Afghan president asks why allies won’t act on Pakistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai questioned on Thursday the willingness of his Western allies to strike insurgent bases in Pakistan given the strong evidence of Islamabad’s support for the Taliban.

“The war against terrorism is not in the villages or houses of Afghanistan … but in the sanctuaries, sources of funding and training [of terrorism], and they lie outside Afghanistan,” he told a news conference in Kabul.

“It is a different question whether Afghanistan has the ability to tackle this,” he said in response to a question about Pakistan support for the Taliban and why the conflict was dragging on. “… but our allies have this capability. The question now is ‘why they are not taking action’?” Islamabad’s covert backing of the Taliban resurfaced this week with the publication by the whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of classified US military documents related to the near-nine-year-old war.

The documents show current and former members of Pakistan’s spy agency were actively collaborating with the Taliban in plotting attacks in Afghanistan — including an assassination attempt against Karzai.

Pakistan key to ending war
Those ties have been an open secret for a long time, but relations between Islamabad and Kabul have nevertheless warmed in the past two years. Both neighbours signed a long-awaited but lucrative trucking transit agreement last month, their first significant diplomatic accord in decades.

Karzai held out hope for further improved ties.

“Looking at the future, Afghanistan of course will continue its efforts for establishing friendly, stable and sturdy relations with all of its neighbours,” he said in his first solo news conference in months.

Karzai needs the 150 000-strong Nato-led foreign force to make significant advances against the insurgency if his government is to meet a 2014 target of taking responsibility for security operations across the whole country.

Ordinary Afghans are baffled how Washington can wage a costly and punishing war against the Taliban in Afghanistan while at the same time giving billions in aid and military support to Pakistan, which allows sanctuary to militant leaders.

But Islamabad, which sees Afghanistan as “strategic depth” to the West in case of war with India to the East, will be central to any peace talks between the Karzai’s government and the Taliban leadership over which it holds sway.

Karzai said he had ordered government agencies to sift through the WikiLeaks documents to see if there was anything new or damaging to nation, adding reports of Afghan confidential informants being identified were “irresponsible and shocking”.

Many of the documents reveal names of Afghans giving information to foreign forces or informing on the Taliban and there are fears they could be indentified and targeted by insurgents.

Violence in Afghanistan has soared since a troop surge brought to 150 000 the number of foreign forces confronting the Taliban and two other insurgent groups. – Reuters