Taliban still plotting attacks from Pakistan, says Khalizad
* Pakistan denies troops are allowing illegal crossing
KABUL: Senior Taliban are still plotting attacks on Afghan and US targets from safe havens in Pakistan, the US ambassador in Kabul said on Sunday, urging Islamabad to clamp down on Taliban fugitives, as well as Al Qaeda leaders.
“We know several key Taliban figures are there and there is some sense that some of the remaining Al Qaeda leaders are in the border area on the other side,” Zalmay Khalizad said. “It doesn’t serve Pakistan’s interest for them to operate in Pakistan and to come across and attack Afghanistan or the coalition forces here,” Khalizad said in an interview. Khalizad said the US was “very encouraged” by an ongoing Pakistani offensive against hundreds of foreign fighters and allied Afghan tribesmen in villages in South Waziristan.
He said he couldn’t discuss intelligence on whether the thousands of Pakistani troops using helicopters and mortars to pound the area had cornered Al Qaeda’s No 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri, but said he hoped it was true. Khalizad said key commanders of the Taliban regime ousted by US-led forces in late 2001 for harbouring Osama Bin Laden were operating out of Pakistan. He said they included Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Brader, Taliban commanders believed to be orchestrating attacks in southern Afghan provinces including the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
Khalizad also cited a statement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai late last year that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar had been spotted in a mosque of Quetta.
Pakistan on Sunday denied that its security forces were allowing men to cross its border with Afghanistan unchecked. Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that Pakistani paramilitary rangers and troops were alert and guarding the border to prevent any “miscreants” from crossing illegally. He said guards might allow local tribesmen they recognize to cross to visit relatives.
“There are many tribes near the Pakistan-Afghan border. People belonging to these tribes are usually not discouraged by the government from visiting their relatives,” he said. —Agencies