KABUL, Jan 17: A video of a Pakistani Taliban leader with the bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan indicated cross-border links between Afghan, Pakistani and Al Qaeda militants, the US regional envoy said on Sunday.
Special Representative Richard Holbrooke said in an interview in Kabul that “shadowy but unmistakable” links between groups exposed by the video helped explain why the United States and its allies were fighting in Afghanistan.
The video released this month showed the Jordanian suicide bomber posing with Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, before carrying out the Dec 30 attack which killed seven CIA employees, the deadliest strike on the agency in decades.
“When people say to us, ‘why are you fighting in Afghanistan when the goal is to destroy Al Qaeda and they are in Pakistan?’ I think this incident highlights the explanation for what we are doing, because there are some shadowy but unmistakeable connections here,” he said.
The video could show “the very close links between the Haqqani group, Mehsud, Al Qaeda, and it underlines the rationale for our strategy”, he said. “That was a horrifying tape.”
“They’ve all claimed credit for it,” he said of the various militant groups with some possible hand in the CIA attack.
Asked whether he had put more pressure on Islamabad to do more in border regions to rout insurgents, Mr Holbrooke said Pakistan’s military was stretched “very thin”.
“I think they are well aware of the fact that the presence on their soil of the Afghan Taliban and its leadership is not in their own security interests. They know how important this is. They are our allies,” he added.
Easing tensions between India and Pakistan would help western efforts in Afghanistan, said Mr Holbrooke. However, it was up to Islamabad and New Delhi to find their own path towards better ties.
He said Washington would welcome better relations between Islamabad and New Delhi, but he had no plans to act as a mediator between the two rival countries. “President (Barack) Obama has said publicly that if India and Pakistan improve their relations, he would welcome it,” he said before leaving for New Delhi.
“But it’s up to them to do it for themselves. We are not intermediating between Islamabad and New Delhi.
“Every time I go to India people say: ‘Are you working on this problem? Are you a messenger? Are you an envoy between the two countries?’” he said. “The answer is ‘no’.”
He described his visit to India as a “consultative trip, it’s not a negotiating trip”, unlike his stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
His aim was mainly to explain US regional strategy to Indian officials, on his first visit since Mr Obama announced 30,000 extra troops for Afghanistan in December.
Asked if better India-Pakistan ties were necessary to resolve the Afghan conflict, Mr Holbrooke said: “Is it necessary? ... It would be useful.” Asked why, he said: “For obvious reasons.”
“In this extraordinary strategic context, every country has a legitimate security requirement which has to be acknowledged if we are ever going to get to a resolution of this 30-year process,” he said of the three decades of war in Afghanistan.
“The Pakistan-India relationship is unique because of its origins on the same day in August of 1947 and the unresolved issue of the territory on their common border, which has been so disputed,” he said.
“Pakistan has legitimate security interests like any nation, based on its ... geo-strategic position,” he said. “I am not going to get specific about India’s strategic interests. They will speak for themselves.”—Reuters