London, Feb.4 : Britain planned to build a training camp for 2,000 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed.
The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December. The computer stick contained a three-stage plan, called the European Union Peace Building Programme. The third stage covered military training.
An Afghan government source said the training camp to be built outside Musa Qala, in Helmand, was part of a British plan to use bands of reconciled Taliban, called Community Defence Volunteers, to fight the remaining insurgents. "The camp would provide military training for 1,800 ordinary Taliban fighters and 200 low-level commanders," he said.
Officers from Afghanistan's KGB-trained National Directorate of Security have impounded the computer memory stick at the centre of the row after they moved against a party of international diplomats who were visiting Helmand.
The memory stick revealed that 125,000 dollars had been spent on preparing the camp and a further 200,000 dollars was earmarked to run it in 2008
Kabul is now accusing the Gordon Brown Government of reneging on its pledge not to negotiate with extremists like the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Brown had told Parliament on December 12: "Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating their leaders. We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."
According to The Indepent, the British, however, insist President Karzai's office knew what was going on. Karzai has expelled two top diplomats amid accusations they were part of a plot to buy-off the insurgents.
Anglo-Afghan relations have sunk to a new low in the wake of these revelations.
Karzai has blocked the appointment of Paddy Ashdown to the top UN job in Kabul and he has blamed British troops for losing control of Helmand.
The revelation has also soured relations between Kabul and Washington, where State Department officials were instrumental in pushing Lord Ashdown for the UN role.
Details of how much President Karzai was told remain murky. Some analysts believe Afghan officials were briefed about the plan, but that it later evolved.
Curiously, the European Union says the programme did not exist and there were no EU funds to run it.