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Afghan President Demands That Pakistan Rein In Taliban

  • RFE/RL

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, pictured in July.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, pictured in July.

The Afghan president has called on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban after a wave of attacks in the capital that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded in Kabul's worst spate of violence since 2009.

In a rare public rebuke of Afghanistan's nuclear-armed neighbor, Ashraf Ghani in a televised address August 10 blamed Pakistan for supporting the insurgents in their 14-year war against Kabul and said he was sending a delegation to Islamabad later this week to demand an end to this.

"The last few days have shown that suicide-bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories that are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan," Ghani said. "We want action against the organizers."

"We know they have sanctuaries there, we know they are active there," Ghani said, referring to Taliban leaders living in tribal-governed regions of Pakistan. "We need all those activities to be stopped."

Since assuming office a year ago, Ghani has pursued closer relations with Pakistan, which wields influence over the insurgent group, hoping that it could use that influence to bring the Taliban into peace negotiations.

But in a sign that he is no longer giving top priority to peace talks, Ghani said: "We hoped for peace, but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistani territory.... We don't want Pakistan to bring the Taliban to peace talks, but to stop the Taliban's activities on their soil."

Lamenting the more than 50 Afghans killed in Taliban attacks in recent days, Ghani said: "We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan, and who do not destroy their own country on orders from foreign masters."

Ghani warned that the recent warming of relations with Pakistan could end.

"Our relations with Pakistan are based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and the safety of our people," he said. "If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning.... I hope it will not happen."

Pakistan sought to calm Ghani's anger, saying it remains committed to maintaining good relations with Kabul. A statement from Islamabad's Foreign Ministry said that after losing tens of thousands of its own people to terrorist attacks, Pakistan can feel the "pain and anguish of the brotherly people" of Afghanistan over the latest attacks there.

"Pakistan condemns these deadly attacks in Afghanistan in the strongest terms," the ministry said, adding that Pakistan will continue to support and facilitate an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process" with the Taliban.

Divisions

Pakistan hosted the first official round of Kabul-Taliban negotiations last month. But a second round that was due at the end of last month was indefinitely postponed after the Afghan government announced the death over two years ago of the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The Taliban was torn by infighting and rivalries after the swift appointment of Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansur as Omar's replacement by a small council of Taliban leaders in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Despite the divisions, however, the group has only intensified its attacks on Kabul.

Only hours before Ghani's address, a suicide car bombing at a busy roundabout near the entrance to the Kabul airport killed at least five people and wounded 16, officials said. The Taliban said the attack was aimed at a foreign military convoy, but the Interior Ministry said all five victims were civilians, including a woman and child.

Ghani also took his concerns to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation August 10.

Kerry spokesman John Kirby said the two discussed the need for Afghanistan and Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for Taliban insurgents.

The attacks demonstrate the insurgency's "complete disregard for the lives of innocent Afghans," Kirby told reporters in Washington, saying the United States would work with Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to create a "stable, secure, and prosperous region."

Kerry is urging the two countries to go back to working together "to achieve the shared goal of defeating violent extremists," he said. "It is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border."

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for all the recent attacks in Kabul but one -- a truck bomb explosion that flattened a city block, killed 15 people, and wounded 240 as they slept in the early hours August 7.

It is widely believed the truck in that attack detonated prematurely -- CCTV footage on Afghan television showed the truck hitting a speed bump and then blowing up.

Ghani said the recent attacks showed "the war has changed shape."

"The enemy who was fighting to gain territory and claim victory, has now had its backbone broken," he said of the insurgent group. "It is so desperate now that it has turned to cowardly attacks against innocent people just to weaken people's morale."

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters
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