Pakistan yesterday rejected accusations that it was secretly supporting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, while the Taliban denied plans for peace talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia.
The statements came as a leaked NATO report charged that Pakistan’s security services were backing the Taliban militia, who consider victory inevitable once Western combat troops leave in 2014.
The leak was spectacularly bad timing for Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who was in Kabul for the first time since taking office last year in a bid to thaw frosty ties between the two neighbors.
“We have no hidden agenda in Afghanistan,” Khar told reporters after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “These claims have been made many, many times. Pakistan stands behind any initiative that the Afghan government takes for peace.”
The Taliban chose the same day to deny that they would soon hold talks with Karzai’s government in Saudi Arabia to end the decade-long war since they were toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001.
“There is no truth in these published reports saying that the delegation of the Islamic Emirate would meet with representatives of the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia in the near future,” the Taliban said on their Web site.
Afghan officials had suggested that talks in Saudi Arabia would be in addition to contacts in Qatar between the Taliban and the US.
However, it was never clear whether the Taliban, who have resisted talks with the Afghan government, or the Saudis, who have conditioned involvement on the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda, would come on board.
The “State of the Taliban” document claims that Islamabad, via Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, is “intimately involved” with the insurgency and that the Taliban assume victory is inevitable once Western troops leave in 2014.
The Times quoted the report as saying the Taliban’s “strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact,” despite setbacks last year.
“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” it said.
“Once ISAF [NATO’s International Security Assistance Force] is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable,” it said.
The ISAF, however, appeared to distance itself from the contents of the document.
The document “may provide some level of representative sampling of Taliban opinions and ideals, but clearly should not be used as any interpretation of campaign progress,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister said “we consider any threat to Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty as a threat to Pakistan’s existence.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look forward to a relationship based on trust,” she said.