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Afghanistan Suspends Meetings With Pakistan After Attacks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
KABUL -- Afghanistan has suspended a series of meetings with Pakistan because of what it called the "violent policies" of the Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies and their involvement in a string of attacks.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are both important U.S. allies but their relations, for decades dogged by a dispute over their border, have more recently been plagued by Afghan accusations of Pakistani involvement in violence in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on July 14 that Pakistani agents were behind recent violence, including an attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last week, the first time he had directly accused Pakistan of involvement in the suicide car-bomb blast that killed 58 people.

India's national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, said last week he had no doubt Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was behind the attack.

Ties with Pakistan dominated a cabinet meeting Karzai held on July 14 and the cabinet later said in a statement Afghanistan would maintain people-to-people contacts and support the newly elected Pakistani government.

"[But] it feels compelled in the face of the violent policies of Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies, and for the sake of its national sovereignty, to suspend its bilateral and multilateral meetings," the cabinet said.

Behind Other Attacks, Too

The government said Pakistani agents were behind a string of other attacks, including a bid to kill Karzai in April and a June assault on a prison that freed about 400 Taliban.

Afghanistan was pulling out of meetings on border cooperation meeting and bilateral and regional economic cooperation, all scheduled for coming weeks, it said, adding participation would be suspended "until a positive spirit of dialogue and understanding for mutual trust is restored."

Karzai warned last month he might send troops into Pakistan to fight the Taliban if Pakistan failed to tackle them and he told reporters on July 14 that Afghanistan would soon take revenge for the death and destruction.

Pakistan backed the Taliban through the 1990s but cut support after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been killed trying to dislodge Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters from enclaves on the Afghan border. The militants have been responsible for many bomb attacks on Pakistani security forces, including the ISI.

Despite that, Pakistan has never been able to dispel suspicion that for various reasons, it is at least turning a blind eye to help going to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan believes Pakistan helps the Taliban to counter growing Indian influence, keep the country weak, and allow Pakistani forces to concentrate on defending the Indian border.

Pakistan again denied it had a hand in Afghan violence.

"Pakistan was not involved in any such activity, as the government has repeatedly stated," Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman told Reuters. "Such allegations are unhelpful.... We're in the business of confidence building, not conflict creation."

The Afghan cabinet said its expectation that Pakistan's new civilian administration would be able to rein in the security agencies had not materialized.

Hundreds Of Confessions

An Afghan official said evidence of Pakistan's involvement included confessions from hundreds of captured Pakistani Taliban.

"We are not talking without evidence and proof," said parliamentary affairs spokesman Asif Nang.

While accusing the ISI of involvement in the embassy attack, India has not escalated its anger to a point that jeopardizes a four-year-old peace process.

But India will not send a delegation from its Central Bureau of Investigation to Islamabad for talks with Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, an Indian official said.

The nuclear-armed neighbors are due to begin a new round of peace talks in New Delhi on July 21, and to hold a meeting in Islamabad on July 18 on enhancing transport links.