Pak reluctant to act against Taliban and al-Qaeda: US report

Betwa Sharma

New York, Feb 7 (PTI) Concerns that Afghanistan andIndia became too close in the post-2001 period was one reasonwhy Pakistan was reluctant to act against Taliban and al-Qaeda, according to a report, which recommends engagement withthe militants to end the conflict in the restive nation.

The report, ''Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda: Thecore of success in Afghanistan,'' argued that Pakistan washesitant to take on the Taliban and al-Qaeda as theyregarded the government in Kabul as too close to India.

"They regarded the government in Kabul as too close toIndia and maintained the former rulers they had supported as atool of pressure to protect Pakistan�s security interests,"said the report published by New York University today.

"From a Pakistani perspective, the post-2001period was a balancing act in which publicly expressedinterests differed from those expressed privately," accordingto the report by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

It said General Pervez Musharraf and other officials"made numerous public statements pledging support for USgoals, but at the same time drew private conclusions that theinterests of Pakistan were not best served by moving againstthe Taliban and their associates".

The main focus of the article, however, is tounderline the differences between al-Qaeda and Taliban, and torecommend engagement with the latter as a way to end theconflict in Afghanistan.

"Elements of the Pakistani state also thought theycould use an insurgency in Afghanistan as pressure against theAfghan government and the US," the report said.

"Al-Qaeda has had little or no influence on the originand course of the insurgency, though it has assisted withtraining and fund raising,� it said.

Both authors have lived and worked in Afghanistan forseveral years.

The New York Times described them as being "among asmall group of experts who say the only way to end the war inAfghanistan is to begin peace overtures to the Taliban."

"There is room to engage the Taliban on the issues ofrenouncing al-Qaeda and providing guarantees against the useof Afghanistan by international terrorists in a way that willachieve core US goals," the report said.

It said that Taliban leaders were not in the loopabout the 9/11 attacks but the authors noted that Talibanchief Mullah Mohammad Omar�s decision to protect al-Qaedachief Osama Bin Laden was "difficult to rationalize."

But it was in part because Mullah Omar thought he hadPakistan''s support before the U.S. attacked following the 9/11terror strikes.

"He believed that the Taliban�s standing in theIslamic world depended on resisting U.S. demands about binLaden," the report said.

"In the run-up to the start of Operation EnduringFreedom, Pakistan also repeatedly assured the Taliban of itssupport, contributing to Mullah Mohammad Omar�sdetermination," it said.

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