Brussels: Former director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Ehsanul Haq, said on Wednesday that the Taliban and al Qaeda are united against the West, which they see as a common foe in Afghanistan.
Speaking on the sidelines of an East-West Institute think tank conference, General Ehsan was quoted by the Daily Times, as saying that both groups had different agenda but were held together by the presence in Afghanistan of a “common enemy” – foreign troops.
“While they have a common enemy they will always be together. When they are not confronted with a common enemy, naturally their own agendas will come to the fore,” he said.
“I think I see there is a possibility in the future (of separating the groups),” he told a foreign news agency.
General Ehsan, however, played down the significance of US President Barack Obama’s statement that US forces would start moves to withdraw gradually in July 2011, subject to conditions on the ground.
“Obama has indicated that (intention) in a broader sense, but various other steps will reinforce or negate what perception is formed of the intent that has been expressed,” he said.
“There are many steps to indicate whether they are going towards that objective,” he said.
He declined to elaborate.
He also said splitting the two allies would be difficult, but there were distinct divergences in the two groups’ aims.
“In my view there is a clear difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban. One has an international agenda, the other is fighting in a national context with grievances in Afghanistan.”
Ehsan led the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate from 2001 to 2004 and finished his career as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.