Karzai concedes Central Asian, Arab militants’ role in violence

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has conceded the role of militants from Central Asian and the Arab regions in continuing violence in his country as a US channel also reported increased presence of al-Qaeda in multiple camps and cells in Afghanistan.
Citing American reports, the CBS 60 Minutes investigative program, which also included interview with top US commander in Afghanistan Gen John Allen, disclosed that Kunar province has become the base of al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan.
The program revealed that the al-Qaeda presence on the Afghan soil is significant and contradicts earlier claims about the militant organization’s having been nearly eliminated from Afghanistan. Gen Allen also told the program of his forces’ efforts to combat al-Qaeda in the country.
In a rare moment of publicly aired and blunt reflection, Karzai, who has been singling out Pakistan for Afghanistan’s troubles for years, also wondered why terrorism has escalated in his landlocked country since foreign forces’ arrival with the stated aim of containing the violence.
But, in the same breath, Karzai made the sweeping claim that were it not for militant sanctuaries in Pakistan, his country would have been “completely different” in terms of peace and security.
The program “The Longest War,” shown Sunday also focused on the rising number of “insider” attacks in which Afghan forces turn their guns on their American trainers. Allen says he is “mad as hell” about these attacks.
Afghan forces, the program presenter Lara Logan observed, face a formidable enemy as they move toward assuming security full responsibility, before the 2014 end to foreign combat mission in their country.
Can you tell Americans what’s still at stake in Afghanistan after all these years of war? she asked Karzai, according to a CBS script.
Karzai: The reason for the NATO and American intervention in Afghanistan was terrorism. Terrorism has not gone away. It has increased.
Lara Logan: When you say that terrorism has increased what do you mean exactly?
Karzai: If terrorism means violence against civilians, if terrorism means violence against our allies. It has increased. It has not abated. It has not gone away.
Karzai then tells the program that the “Afghan intelligence reports to him on the presence of foreign fighters – Arabs, Chechens and others, who are captured and killed on Afghan soil.
“Name them al Qaeda, name them Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, name them Haqqani, name them Taliban, whatever. They’re still there. And they have the ability to continue 10 years on to come and hurt us and kill your troops and kill our troops, kill our civilians. We must then question how come they’ve returned?”
Probed further how the al-Qaeda-linked militants returned to the country, Karzai replied :
“Something must have gone wrong for that to happen.”
One place, the program presenter noted, where things have gone wrong is in the “mountains of Kunar in the east of the country, which has become al Qaeda’s base of operations in Afghanistan today.”
The program also contained excerpts of an interview with a man, identified as an Afghan Taliban leader. In the interview – conducted in Kabul – the Taliban leader claims that it is the Taliban who are behind the “insider” attacks. He also talks about some of the deadly skills of al-Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan.
The program notes that “while the U.S. has been saying for a long time that al Qaeda in Afghanistan is almost defeated, the U.S. military’s own reports from the battlefield reveal a very different picture.”
These reports are “rich with detail about al Qaeda’s leaders and operations today, confirming the existence of al Qaeda training camps and multiple attack cells.”
Among those they say they’ve killed are al Qaeda weapons and explosives experts. In one month, the U.S. says it killed more than 25 al Qaeda leaders and fighters.
Commenting on the issue, Gen Allen told the channel: “al Qaeda has come back. Al Qaeda is a resilient organization. But they’re not here in large numbers. But al Qaeda doesn’t have to be anywhere in large numbers.”
Allen added, “They’re not significant in a traditional military sense. Al Qaeda has significance beyond its numbers, frankly. And so for us, our 24-hour-a-day objective is to seek out those al Qaeda cells. And, as we seek them out, to target them and eliminate them. And we’re doing that 24 hours a day. We do not want al Qaeda to feel as though it can put down roots here. That’s the key.”
According to the program, Karzai and the US differ in their assertions on the level of security in the country, with the Afghan president openly airing his grievances about the loss of lives.
However, both Karzai and Allen claim that the militants having safe havens on the Pakistani side of the Afghan problem have been a big problem.
Speaking on the Pakistan factor, Allen says:
“Well, we’re doing a great deal right now. The relationship that we have between ISAF forces and the Pakistani military has improved dramatically—
Lara Logan: But it doesn’t stop Pakistanis helping our enemies kill U.S. soldiers.
Allen: Well, that’s not going to stop immediately. We’ve got to work at that. It’s not a solution that can be had ultimately by a military solution. These are policy issues, these are government to government issues. I’m not going to be able to wage war in Pakistan. But this is hard. There’s a very complex relationship with Pakistan. And we’ll work very hard and very closely with the Pakistani military to achieve common objectives. But to some extent the Pakistani military has been successful in cooperating with us in the last several months with regard to complimentary operations on both sides of the border but much more needs to be done.”
Allen added in his comments on the situation “within the context of my authorities, we’re going to do everything we can to hunt down and kill every one of those Haqqani operatives that we can inside this country. And those other elements that come out of those safe havens that ultimately threaten my troops, threaten the Afghan troops and the Afghan society, the Afghan civilians, and ultimately the Afghan government.”
Karzai blames the U.S. for not addressing the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan years ago, says the channel.
Lara Logan: Why has the U.S. failed to address the issue with Pakistan do you think?
Karzai: Perhaps politics.
Lara Logan: What has been the cost of that?
Karzai: Heavy for us. Disastrous for us.
Lara Logan: Would Afghanistan look completely different today if the issue of sanctuary and safe haven in Pakistan had been dealt with years ago?
Karzai: Absolutely. Completely different. Much more peaceful. Much more progressed. Much more stable. And a society that would have been thriving on its own.”