Pakistan could end the Afghan war “in weeks” if it were serious about peace, and is complicit in US drone strikes despite its denunciations of the anti-militant campaign, Afghanistan’s army chief says.
In a BBC interview broadcast on Wednesday, General Sher Mohammad Karimi laid bare the mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad as US-led troops wind down more than a decade of war against Taliban and other insurgents.
By closing down madrassa schools that serve as incubators of Islamist extremism, Pakistan had “unleashed” the Taliban on Afghanistan today, the chief of staff of the Afghan National Army said.
“Yes, it will be done in weeks,” Karimi said when asked if Pakistan could end the Taliban’s fight against the Kabul government if it wanted.
He said “the Taliban are under their control” and Pakistan could do far more to promote a nascent peace process.
“Now Pakistan is suffering internally from terrorists as much as I do. We can both do together to fight this menace provided that (everyone is) sincere in what they’re doing,” Karimi said in the interview, which was recorded in Kabul on Saturday.
Pakistan was the prime foreign backer of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 government and some of the fundamentalist movement’s top leaders are believed to live in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
In the past decade, Pakistan has seen the emergence of its own Taliban movement that has claimed thousands of lives in a campaign of terror.
The search for a peace deal in Afghanistan is now an urgent priority as 100,000 US-led NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw next year and Afghan forces take on the fight against insurgents.
After weekend talks with Britain’s visiting leader David Cameron, new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke of his government’s “firm resolve to promote the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan”.
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long decried what he sees as Pakistani double-dealing designed to bring about a friendly regime in Kabul, and Karimi said this bad faith extended to Sharif’s objections to US drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwest.
“US has not started drone attacks on their own,” the Afghan army chief said, arguing that Islamabad had “given the lists” of militants it wants taken out.
“The drones are used against those Taliban who are Pakistani Taliban. The drones are never used against Haqqani or Afghan Taliban,” he said, in reference to one of the most feared Afghan insurgent groups.
“That’s why that’s one of the issues when I’m saying that the peace to Afghanistan can come if us and Pakistan both will desire to have peace. Peace is in the hands of the US and Pakistan. And Afghanistan.”
Sharif took office last month calling for an end to drone strikes and complaining that they violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.
But local officials said that another US strike early on Wednesday killed four people in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal area, which is known as a stronghold of militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.