Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a US envoy this year that the Pakistani government is forcing Taliban fighters to keep fighting coalition forces, according to a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks.
If true, the allegation would add evidence to claims Pakistan is intentionally prolonging the war effort to ensure that any future peace settlement results in an Afghan “satellite state” of Pakistan.
Discussing the arrest of de facto Taliban leader Mullah Baradar earlier this year, Karzai said Pakistan detained Baradar because he was willing to negotiate peace with coalition forces — something Pakistan doesn’t want to see, according to Karzai.
The cable, published Sunday by the New York Times, is marked “secret” and dated February of this year. It describes a conversation between Karzai and Frank Ruggiero, a deputy of US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.
“Senior Taliban fighters in Pakistan may be prepared to reintegrate, [Karzai] said, but are forced by the Pakistan Government to continue to fight,” the cable reports.
Karzai reportedly told Ruggiero that the Pakistani government is using NATO’s “kill or capture list” as a way of marginalizing Taliban leaders who want to negotiate peace. Karzai “said some Afghan Taliban commanders cannot return to Afghanistan because they are on the [kill or capture list] and are told by the Pakistanis they must continue to fight or will be turned over to the coalition,” the cable states.
The Afghan president urged the US to remove some senior Taliban leaders from the list, in order to get them to the negotiating table.
Karzai’s assertion backs up claims made by some observers that Pakistan is working to prevent Taliban leaders from negotiating directly with Western countries or Karzai’s government.
Earlier this month, US terrorism expert Bruce Riedel said Pakistan was pursuing this course because it wanted to turn Afghanistan into a satellite state of Pakistan, something that wouldn’t happen under a US-Taliban deal, or a NATO-Taliban deal.
“When Mullah Baradar started to talk about talks, the ISI [Pakistani intelligence service] had him arrested as a signal to the other Taliban to prevent them from taking independent action,” Riedel said.