Taliban leadership sheltered in Pakistan: Afghan diplomat
Washington: Pakistan not only created and launched the Taliban, but is now sheltering the leadership of the group inside the country, an Afghan diplomat has said and pitched for bolstering the military strength of the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan to combat the terrorists.
At the same time, he felt, the key to securing Afghanistan will rest in the build-up of a professional Afghan Army and police -- or in "Afghanising" the security sector.
"It is now clear to everyone that the Taliban leadership is tolerated and sheltered in Pakistan. And we also know that Pakistan created and launched the Taliban movement in
Afghanistan during 1990s," Ashraf Haidari, the Political Counsellor at the Afghan embassy in Washington, said in a speech at the prestigious Emory University in Atlanta.
Haidari said Pakistan made a U-turn under pressure from the Bush Administration to oppose the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"So it stands to reason that without an external sanctuary, sustainable funding and weapons supplies, and intelligence support in Pakistan, the Taliban could hardly regroup to begin with," he said.
"Since 2003, the Taliban have gradually expanded their influence in areas of south and east of Afghanistan where the government has been either absent or too weak to protect people and deliver basic services to them," he said.
Regionally, Pakistan`s military and intelligence establishment must be persuaded -- bilaterally and multilaterally -— to cooperate honestly in the war against extremism, while the country`s civilian government must be strengthened to ensure stability in Pakistan and the rest of the region on the long run, Haidari said.
"We are firmly committed to partnering with Pakistan`s democratically elected government to eliminate sources of instability in our two countries and to work toward long-term security and economic cooperation in the whole region.”
"At the same time, we recommend that the Coalition and NATO/ISAF bolster their military strength in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan," Haidari said.
Noting that top US commander General Stanley A McChrystal is seeking additional forces in the range of 40,000 to 45,000 to implement an effective counter-insurgency strategy to secure Afghanistan, the diplomat said, "We hope that he will get what he needs, both from the United States and NATO countries, to defeat the Taliban."
He said the Karzai government plans to expand the size of the Afghan National Army to 240,000 soldiers and that of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to 160,000 to meet Afghanistan`s law enforcement and defence needs.
"There is no doubt that `Afghanising` the security sector will dramatically cut down on the current financial and human cost of the international military presence in Afghanistan, while enabling Afghans to defend our country more effectively now and in the future," he said.
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