Most of the time today, Spanta spoke in general terms about "other countries" where "terrorists" receive training, funding, and ideological support. He said only a small share of arrested insurgents came from Afghanistan itself. The rest are from the Middle East, North Africa, Chechnya, and Uzbekistan, but their majority comes "from one neighboring country."
But in other, more innocuous contexts, the Afghan foreign minister made no secret he means Pakistan. He said Afghanistan appreciates Pakistan's support but said Kabul also has a "legitimate expectation" that the country do more to fight terrorism.
Spanta said the insurgency in Afghanistan was only a "symptom," and said the international community must fight the "sources" outside -- clamp down on countries that fund, train, and ideologically support terrorists.
The minister went further, suggesting "some neighbors" are using terrorism to try and subvert Afghanistan's sovereignty.
"Some countries have still not realized that Afghanistan is not a military-strategic [adjunct] of any country, but a neighbor, a brother of equal standing and a neighbor," Spanta said. "And neither we nor the international community have yet succeeded in getting this realisation into the heads of policy makers in some neighboring countries. That is, the creation of a kind of protectorate in Afghanistan remains a kind of foreign policy [objective] and these countries use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy."
Again, Spanta left little doubt that he means Pakistan. He praised cooperation with Iran and other major regional countries.
Spanta also pointedly said that Afghanistan had shown "goodwill" in stopping what he described as an earlier "media war" against Pakistan. He also said Kabul will not allow parts of Afghanistan to become involved in separatist-linked violence in Pakistan's Baluchistan region -- and expects the same in return.
The minister said he believes the increase in fighting in Afghanistan has been partly sparked by certain recent "geostrategic developments." He said the rapprochement between the United States and India is being seen by "some regional countries" as highly dangerous. These countries now want to show their strength and demonstrate that without their cooperation "no country is in a position to bring stability to Afghanistan."
Spanta vowed that Afghanistan will defend its sovereignty and democratic government, but he said the means for that fall woefully short. He said the Afghan National Army numbers only about 36,000 troops, while the police force has an estimated 26,000 men. Yet, he pointed out, Afghanistan is twice the size of Germany.
He said that most of the security forces are very poorly equipped, while their adversaries have access to modern technology.
"A simple example: In the Sangin district in Kandahar [province], there live more than 40,000 people, but we have 41 policemen with three very outmoded Russian jeeps, while the terrorists who come from the other side [of the border] to attack drive [Toyota] Landcruisers, Japanese cars [equipped] with climate control," Spanta said.
He appeared to give support to efforts to resuscitate local, pro-government militias. He said the best way of protecting local people was by mobilizing locals -- albeit within the law and under Kabul's coordination.
NATO In The South
The minister fielded a number of questions from EU deputies suggesting the extension of NATO forces in the south of the country has served as a "provocation" for the local population. He rejected the suggestion, saying the vast majority of Afghans, while not "happy" about the presence of foreign troops, would not want them to leave for fear of what would follow their departure.
Spanta reiterated the view often expressed by Afghan and NATO officials that the insurgents represent only a small minority of the population.
"We have a small minority, a very well-organized minority with strong links to other countries, [with] a fanatical ideology which hates and is bent on destroying all the achievements of humanity in terms of democracy, human rights, [and] women's emancipation," Spanta said.
He described the conflict as a battle between moderates who want a stable Afghanistan and those who want a "land without a country" to spread international terrorism.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad in October 2005 (epa)
ACROSS A DIFFICULT BORDER. The contested border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is some 2,500 kilometers long and runs through some of the most rugged, inhospitable territory on Earth. Controlling that border and preventing Taliban militants from using Pakistan as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan is an essential part of the U.S.-led international coalition's strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan. Officials in Kabul have been pointing their fingers at Pakistan for some time, accusing Islamabad or intelligence services of turning a blind eye to cross-border terrorism targeting the Afghan central government. Many observers remain convinced that much of the former Taliban regime's leadership -- along with leaders of Al-Qaeda -- are operating in the lawless Afghan-Pakistani border region.... (more)