Britain says Pakistan is hiding Taliban chief
Christina Lamb, Kabul
THE British general commanding Nato troops in Afghanistan is to confront Pakistan’s president over his country’s support for the Taliban.
Among the evidence amassed is the address of the Taliban’s leader in a Pakistani city.Lieutenant-General David Richards will fly to Islamabad tomorrow to try to persuade Pervez Musharraf to rein in his military intelligence service, which Richards believes is training Taliban fighters to attack British troops.
He will request that key Taliban leaders living in Pakistan be arrested.The evidence compiled by American, Nato and Afghan intelligence includes satellite pictures and videos of training camps for Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers inside Pakistan. Captured Taliban fighters and failed suicide bombers have confirmed that they were trained by the Pakistani intelligence service, known as the ISI.
The information includes an address in Quetta where Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is said to live. Musharraf had publicly acknowledged “a Taliban problem on the Pakistan side of the border”, said Richards. “Undoubtedly something has got to happen,” he added.“We’ve got to accept that the Pakistan government is not omnipotent and it isn’t easy but it has to be done and we’re working very hard on it.
I’m very confident that the Pakistan government’s intent is clear and they will be delivering on it.”The initiative emerged as the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, called for more troop-carrying helicopters. He was responding to a promise by Tony Blair that the forces could have whatever extra resources they needed. But a defence source said it was difficult to see where new British transport helicopters could be found.
Political leaders have been reluctant to put pressure on Musharraf for fear of destabilising a nuclear-armed country in which Islamic fundamentalists are strong.
This week’s intervention comes at a sensitive time for Blair after the ISI apparently helped avert the alleged planned bombing of transatlantic airliners flying from Heathrow. But the Taliban’s re-emergence has coincided with mounting evidence of ISI involvement, prompting frustration inAfghanistan, where 30 British servicemen have been killed.“I feel real vitriol seeing our boys dying because of Pakistan,” said one British officer.
A senior US commander added: “We just can’t ignore it any more. Musharraf’s got to prove which side he is on.”Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has repeatedly complained of Pakistan’s role in providing a haven for Taliban fighters, saying they have openly run camps in Karachi and Quetta. “There is an open campaign by Pakistan against Afghanistan and the presence of coalition troops here,” he said.
In Washington two weeks ago Karzai handed Pakistan the names and addresses of alleged handlers of suicide bombers using a camp near Peshawar that had been infiltrated by an Afghan informer. Last Wednesday a rubbish bag was discovered in the camp containing his body.