Pakistan rejects leaked NATO report on Taliban support
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday dismissed a leaked NATO report accusing her country's intelligence agency of helping the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, dpa reported.
"For me, this is an old wine in an even older bottle. I don't think these claims are new," Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters during a one-day visit to the Afghan capital Kabul.
Speaking alongside her Afghan counterpart, Khar said the aim of her visit was to send "a strong message to both Kabul and to the world that Pakistan will stand behind any initiative" that Afghanistan may take regarding peace talks with the insurgents.
The BBC had earlier cited a NATO document as saying that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is aware of the locations and activities of senior Taliban leaders.
"Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the government of Pakistan," the report said.
The leaked classified document was said to be based on 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians.
"Pakistan's manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly," the document reportedly said.
Khar said: "Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look forward to nurturing a relationship based on trust" rather than pursuing "blame games."
Peace and stability in Pakistan would not be possible "without aspiring to an equal degree of peace and stability in Afghanistan," Khar said.
A Foreign Ministry official in Pakistan also rejected the leaked NATO report.
"It seems to be a report that is detached from reality. Pakistan's commitment to end the insurgency along the Pak-Afghan border has been very strong over the years and we had to pay a heavy price for that," spokesman Abdul Basit said.
"Thousands of our soldiers and civilians have lost their lives in the fight against militancy," he added.
The Afghan Taliban, whose leadership is said to be based in Pakistan, have been waging a bloody insurgency against the Kabul administration and its Western allies.
Many Afghans believe that the situation is only going to worsen after NATO-led international forces leave, in 2014, since the Afghan security forces are too weak, ill-trained and ill-equipped to fight the insurgents.
But a spokesman for NATO in Brussels said that the Afghan troops "are getting stronger and more capable every day." She also argued that the Taliban had been seriously weakened.
"What we know is that the Taliban have suffered tremendous setbacks on the battlefield in the last year," Oana Lungescu said. "We know that they've lost a lot of ground and they've lost a lot of leaders. We also know that support for the Taliban is at an all-time low."
She declined to comment on the leaked document since it is classified, but described it as "just one source of information among many" and said it contained "nothing new."
Among its conclusions is that there has been an unprecedented interest, even from members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban cause.
"Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption," the NATO document has been reported by the BBC as saying.
It also says the Taliban are trying to hasten NATO's withdrawal by deliberately reducing their attacks in some areas and initiating a comprehensive hearts-and-minds campaign.
But a NATO commander in Afghanistan also downplayed the importance of the document.
"The document may provide some level of representative sampling of the Taliban opinions and ideals, but it is clearly their opinions and should not be used as any interpretation of campaign progress," Lieutenant Commander Brian Badura told dpa.
"The classified document in question is a compilation of Taliban detainees' opinions and ideals based on their comments while in detention," Badura said.
"It is important that this context be understood and it is extremely important not to draw conclusions based on Taliban comments or musings."
While in Kabul, Khar also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with whom she discussed the peace process and the terrorist threats that the two nations are facing.
Khar also invited Karzai to attend a summit planned for mid-February in Islamabad between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.