Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Pakistan’s military to stop supporting the Taliban insurgency, saying his country is a loyal neighbor that would assist Pakistan if attacked by the U.S.
In the interview with Pakistan’s Geo television, Karzai accused Pakistan’s military of sponsoring the Taliban movement fighting his government while describing the two countries as twin brothers. Describing Taliban bases in Pakistan as a betrayal of fraternal relations, Karzai vowed that Afghanistan would never abandon Pakistan in return.
“God forbid, if a war breaks between Pakistan and America, we will side (with) Pakistan,” Karzai said, according to a transcript released yesterday by his office. “If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”
Karzai’s declaration on Pakistan’s most prominent independent TV channel was an effort at public diplomacy, said Nur ul-Haq Uloomi, an Afghan politician and former army general. In promising to back Pakistan in the event of a war, Karzai “was speaking diplomatically and no one will take this seriously,” Uloomi said.
The comments came days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited both countries and renewed U.S. pressure on Pakistan’s leaders to take action within “days and weeks” against the Taliban and allied militant groups that attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan from Pakistani bases.
Karzai repeatedly accused Pakistan’s “establishment,” referring to the military and intelligence leaders who control national security policy, of sponsoring an “extremist, terrorist force” against Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s army, which has ruled the country for more than half its existence, has sponsored violent Islamist guerrillas as proxy forces in Afghanistan and in its dispute with India over the Kashmir region, according to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Still, Karzai’s simultaneous appeal to Pakistan as “brothers” will “displease many Afghans because our people in the east are suffering from rockets and other attacks coming from Pakistan,” Uloomi said in a phone interview. “Many Afghans would like to see our country strike the terrorist groups in Pakistan that are conducting these attacks.”
Both Karzai and the U.S. administration have stepped up criticism this year of Pakistan’s intelligence service and army for ties to the Taliban, notably the Haqqani faction, which is based largely in the Pakistani border district of North Waziristan. Clinton has said recent attacks, such as one against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, are exhausting American patience with Pakistan.
--Editors: John Brinsley, Nicholas Wadhams
To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at firstname.lastname@example.org; Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org.