Taliban trying to move leadership from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Kabul says
Kabul, Jan 4 (efe-epa).- The Taliban are looking to transfer its top leadership from Pakistan to Afghanistan, a strategy which has led to the insurgent group increasing its attacks in the country’s south in order to increase the area under its control, Afghan intelligence claimed on Monday.
Zia Sara, the director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) – the principal intelligence agency of Afghanistan – said during a parliamentary session that “in recent months Taliban had increased attacks and moved the war zone to southern and southwestern provinces” of Afghanistan.
“The main reason for this is that their leadership (…) wants to find a safe place to move from Pakistan to inside Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the militants wanted to gain a foothold in the region and show the population that they were well-entrenched in the country.
The Taliban have carried out large-scale attacks against cities such as Lashkargah, capital of the Helmand province and various districts of the Kandahar province during the last few months.
However, although the rebels managed to capture some areas initially, they were pushed back during counter-offensives by Afghan security forces with air support from the United States.
The presence of the Taliban top brass in Pakistan is an open secret, and Kabul claims they enjoy the support of Pakistani authorities, although Islamabad has always denied this.
The situation is so obvious that even the Taliban representatives participating in peace negotiations – first with the US until the signing of an agreement in February and then with the Afghan government since September – have been flying to Doha from Pakistani cities such as Islamabad and Karachi, the NDS director said.
Saraj’s comments come a day before the start of the second round of intra-Afghan peace negotiations in Doha, which he acknowledged as “key” despite alleging that the Taliban had not fulfilled their commitments as per Washington’s agreement with the rebels.
In the pact, the US had agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, while the Taliban pledged to not harbor international terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and halt attacks in urban areas, apart from other commitments.
However, the US troops in Afghanistan on Monday accused the Taliban of violating the agreement and perpetrating the recent targeted killings of politicians, journalists and activists in Afghan cities, echoing allegation by Kabul.
On their part, the Taliban denied the claim and alleged that American troops had carried out airstrikes in non-combat zones in areas under the rebels’ control, which could endanger the ongoing peace allegations. EFE-EPA