London, Oct 12 : British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.
The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by Special Air service regiment and Special Boat Service regiment of the British Army. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body, The Times reported.
It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.
Britain's refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.
"He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul," said a source close to Karzai.
"He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse," the source added.
So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.
Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.
The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions.