KABUL (Reuters) – Pakistan must stop militants crossing the border to attack targets in Afghanistan, otherwise the Kabul government will take action, Afghanistan’s presidential spokesman said on Tuesday.
The comments echo those of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who threatened this month to send troops into Pakistan to kill Taliban militants there if cross-border attacks did not stop. Pakistan said only its forces would tackle militants on its soil.
“Karzai’s comments clarify the fact that terrorism in Afghanistan has external roots and terrorist groups exploiting Pakistan territory attack Afghan military and non-military installations,” Afghan presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada told a news conference.
“We request Pakistan not to allow terrorist groups to use its soil against Afghanistan, otherwise Afghanistan is obliged to take action in order to defend its nation and people,” he said.
The Afghan government and some of its Western allies are growing increasingly frustrated by Pakistan’s failure to clamp down on militant activity in its tribally ruled border regions.
The new Pakistan government has largely halted a military drive into the border areas and instead is trying to seal peace deals with militant groups to try to stem violence that has killed hundreds in Pakistan in the last 18 months.
But Afghan officials and U.S. generals say the de-facto ceasefires on the Pakistan side of the border have allowed the militants to step up attacks into Afghanistan resulting in a sharp rise in violence in the east of the country.
Many Afghan officials and some analysts believe elements within Pakistan’s intelligence agency which armed and funded the Taliban’s rise to power in the 1990s are still backing the austere Islamist group to ensure Afghanistan remains weak.
“All the evidence indicates Afghanistan is being interfered with and the challenges are very great because foreign countries and their intelligence departments support the terrorist groups,” Hamidzada said.
A foreign intelligence agency was also involved in an attempt to assassinate Karzai in April this year, Hamidzada said.
Taliban militants fired on a parade in the Afghan capital Kabul killing three people, including a member of parliament, but missing the president.
“I don’t want to go into details but the primary investigation and evidence in hand indicate at least one foreign intelligence department was clearly involved in the terrorist operation on April 27,” Hamidzada said.
The Afghan government says Taliban leaders and their al Qaeda backers fled to Pakistan when U.S. and Afghan forces toppled the movement in late 2001 after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and others behind the September 11 attacks.
The increasingly proficient Afghan army backed by some 74,000 NATO and U.S.-led troops have killed thousands of Taliban fighters since the militants relaunched their insurgency two years ago, but there has been no let-up in the violence.
Afghan officials say many of the militants who cross the porous border to fight the government and international troops in Afghanistan are Pakistani and Arab nationals.
Up to 400 Taliban seized seven villages in Arghandab district near the main southern city of Kandahar last week before being driven out by the Afghan army which killed nearly 100 insurgents.
Most of the militants were foreigners, Hamidzada said.
“The Kandahar authorities and the governor have shown the dead bodies there who were not Afghans; the majority were foreign fighters,” he said. “The communication between the enemies during the operation in Arghandab was … in a foreign language.”