Reports: Pakistan Supports Taliban In Afghanistan
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And this morning there is once again news from Afghanistan that an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on a NATO soldier. After two similar attacks on French forces last month, France announced it will pull combat troops out of Afghanistan a year early.
At the same time, we're hearing of a classified NATO report, leaked to the BBC and The Times of London, which further documents what has been said for a long time: Pakistan is actively supporting the Taliban insurgency. For more, we reached NPR's Kabul bureau chief Quil Lawrence.
QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let's begin by having you tell us what you know about the shooting in southern Afghanistan. Was it a Taliban infiltrator or an Afghan soldier angry with NATO forces?
LAWRENCE: We're still getting details from that. We've just heard that the shooting actually took place in Marjah, that's according to Afghan officials, which means it was most likely a U.S. soldier, possibly a British soldier. That's in the southern Province of Helmand.
But it is one in a string of these attacks there. There have been dozens of them, according to also leaked documents that have been tracking them since 2007. And the Taliban often claims responsibility for these but it's not always clear that they did it. We haven't heard yet in this case. But they seem to be a majority of these cases, where it's just an Afghan soldier who was offended in some way by international troops.
There's a huge cultural gap between these Western soldiers and the Afghans they're supposed to be training. And sometimes what might be a normal reprimand in the U.S. Army is so offensive by Afghan standards that it ends in murder. It's also sign of growing animosity between Afghans and the foreign forces who've been here for a decade now.
MONTAGNE: Let's turn to that leaked NATO document. And let me just say the basics. According to the BBC and Times of London, it is a compilation of some 4,000 Taliban and some al-Qaida detainees and what they revealed while they were a being interrogated. Among all the bits of information in there, what sticks out to you as news?
LAWRENCE: Well, there's not a lot that we haven't heard before about Pakistan supporting the Taliban; though some of the allegations are a bit more specific, saying that Taliban - Afghan Taliban officials live in Pakistan right next door to ISI, that's Pakistan's intelligence service - right next to their offices. And again, we've heard this before and we further denied again today by Pakistan.
It also details some of the Taliban's tactics. They say that some of the areas where they've been pushed out in the south, that at the moment they're not contesting them. They're making strategic withdrawal. And that when Afghan government forces take over, they're so corrupted and popular that it allows the Taliban to come back in and be welcomed with open arms by the population, who gets very frustrated with corruption and slow delivery of services by the Afghan government.
MONTAGNE: When you say strategic withdrawal, Quil, what you're saying is that they're holding back - that is waiting for this end date when foreign forces for them, NATO forces, will leave.
LAWRENCE: Right. And, of course, NATO's reply is that this is Taliban propaganda. And NATO officials today have been stressing that this report was compiled from interrogations. So this might well be just what the Taliban want people to hear and want people to believe. So that's a pretty big caveat. On the other hand, this information about Pakistan still supporting the Taliban really rings true with many Afghans here, who've been saying for years that they think this war cannot be won until the safe havens inside Pakistan are attacked directly by international forces.
MONTAGNE: Well, there was an interesting quote from one detainee in this report. The quote is, "The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are in Islamabad," which is of course the capital of Pakistan.
LAWRENCE: Yes. And again, it's very easy to get Afghans to blame almost anything on their neighbor of Pakistan. But it does put in sharp relief the fact that Pakistan is continually denying, when it's presented with evidence, of connection with the Afghan Taliban. And this is despite Islamabad receiving millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.
MONTAGNE: Quil, thanks very much.
LAWRENCE: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: We've been speaking with NPR's Quil Lawrence in Kabul.
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