May 25, 2008 / 10:40 AM / 10 years ago

Pakistan talks lead to more Afghan attacks - NATO

KABUL (Reuters) - Peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban militants have already led to an increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, NATO said on Sunday.

Faced with a wave of suicide attacks, Pakistan has begun negotiations with Taliban militants who control much of the mountainous region on its side of the border with Afghanistan and thinned out the number of its troops in the largely lawless area.

But the draft peace accords make no explicit mention of militants stopping attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday vowed to carry on fighting Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan regardless of the talks.

“We have seen increased activity in the eastern part of the country especially which we believe can only be attributed to the de facto ceasefires and a reduction of Pakistani military activity,” NATO’s civilian spokesman in Afghanistan Mark Laity told a news conference.

“We respect the sovereignty of Pakistan absolutely but it’s important they take into account the need to ensure that any agreements they make do not lead to an increase in violence in Afghanistan,” he said.


Afghanistan was sending a high-level delegation to Pakistan in the coming days to voice their concerns over peace deals, said Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi.

“The people of Afghanistan and the government of Afghanistan are concerned regarding the announcement of Baitullah Mehsud and we hope Pakistan territory is not used against the people of Afghanistan, isn’t used to kill our innocent people,” Azimi said.

Previous peace deals between the Pakistan government and the Taliban all broke down in violence and merely gave the militants time to regroup, he said.

“The previous peace accords between the Pakistan government with insurgents were a golden age for the insurgents; they re-equipped, prepared and launched operations against both the government of Afghanistan and the government of Pakistan.”

Afghan forces, backed by more than 60,000 foreign troops, are engaged in daily battles with Taliban militants, mostly in the south and east, the areas closest to the border with Pakistan.

Afghan officials have often accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven from which to direct and launch attacks and also rest and regroup.

Forty-four troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, a spokesman said, compared to 42 in the first five months of last year.

The number of ISAF troops in Afghanistan has risen from 33,400 in January 2007 to 50,838 now, the spokesman said.

More than 12,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency two years ago.

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