Afghan President Points Finger at Pakistan after Bombings in Kabul
Afghanistan — Under pressure after a wave of deadly bombings in the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani on Monday accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to mass gatherings of Taliban fighters in its territory, where such attacks are planned.
Mr. Ghani’s words, a sharp break from the conciliatory tone he had taken toward Pakistan for much of his first year in office, came just hours after a suicide car bomb struck a crowded entrance of the international airport in Kabul, leaving at least five people dead and 16 wounded. Attacks in the Afghan capital over the last four days have left nearly 70 people dead and hundreds wounded.
At a news conference flanked by his war cabinet, Mr. Ghani said that Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan had reached a critical point and that the steps taken by the neighboring country in the coming weeks would have long-term repercussions.
His comments suggested that the nascent peace process facilitated by Pakistan, where some representatives of the Taliban met with Afghan government officials for the first time last month, was effectively dead for now.
“We hoped for peace, but war is declared against us from Pakistani territory,” Mr. Ghani said, referring to his 10-month effort to establish a friendlier relationship with Pakistan. The effort has cost him some political support at home, given the persistent belief here that the Pakistani military has still been actively guiding the Afghan insurgency as a proxy force.
“The incidents of the past two months in general, and the recent days in particular, show that the suicide training camps and the bomb-making facilities used to target and murder our innocent people still operate, as in the past, in Pakistan,” he said.
Mr. Ghani said he had spoken by phone with the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan, who had promised to “chart an action plan against terrorism” that would be discussed with a delegation of Afghan officials visiting Pakistan.
The Taliban’s escalation of violence in the past week has come after a slight lull, while internal rifts over the group’s leadership deepened after confirmation of the death of the group’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, which had been kept secret for two years, finally came last month.
The wave of bombings was seen by some here as an indication that the new leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, is not immediately interested in continuing the peace process facilitated by Pakistan as he tries to consolidate his position in the face of dissent within the Taliban ranks.
As the violence escalated inside Afghanistan, Taliban leaders held large gatherings in Quetta, a city in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, to mediate the differences between Mullah Mansour and other members of the movement, including the family of Mullah Omar. The gatherings broke promises made to Mr. Ghani by Pakistani officials, a senior Afghan official aware of the discussions said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomacy.
After the news of Mullah Omar’s death, Mr. Ghani told his ministers that Pakistan had promised him that no new Amir ul-Momineen, as the Taliban call their leader, would be selected on its soil and that no large gatherings of the Taliban would take place to give him legitimacy. But within days, Mullah Mansour had not only replaced Mullah Omar and been endorsed in large ceremonies in Quetta, but had also announced that his new deputy would come from the Haqqani network, an aggressive organizer of terrorist attacks that has strong links to the Pakistani military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.
Successively, after days of attacks in the capital that bore many of the hallmarks of Haqqani planning, Mr. Ghani said he no longer wanted Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table, but instead wanted it to aggressively attack the group’s sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. And after a year of pressing Pakistani officials to broker a peace process with the Taliban, he said he now wanted the process to be entirely controlled by the Afghan government.
“In the middle of the night, at 1:30 a.m., doomsday descended upon our people. It wasn’t an earthquake, it wasn’t a storm, it was human hand,” Mr. Ghani said, referring to a truck bomb on Saturday that killed at least 15 people, wounded hundreds and left a huge crater in a residential area in the Shah Shaheed neighborhood. “We want the origin of that hand, we want their centers, and we want action against them. This is our main demand; everything else is peripheral.”
Mr. Ghani said it was time for Pakistani officials to prove through action “that the enemies of Afghanistan were the enemies of Pakistan,” quoting a statement that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan made during his visit to Kabul in May.
Mr. Ghani added, “I ask the people and the government of Pakistan: If a massacre such as the one that occurred in Shah Shaheed had happened in Islamabad and the perpetrators had sanctuaries in Afghanistan, had offices and training centers in our major cities, how would you react?
(Courtesy New York Times)