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Former Afghan Intel Chief Accuses Pakistan of Militarily Supporting Taliban

FILE - Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of Afghanistan's secret service speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Former Afghan Intelligence Chief Accuses Pakistan of Militarily Supporting Taliban

Afghanistan’s former spy chief has accused Pakistan of helping the Afghan Taliban militarily, as well as providing them with safe havens..

In an exclusive interview with VOA in Kabul, Rahmatullah Nabil, the former head of the National Directorate of Security, said Pakistan helped create a strike force called the Red Force or Red Brigade in late 2014, and that it started operating in early 2015 when international forces had mostly left and surveillance had been reduced.

Initially, Nabil added, almost 3,000 people were recruited to fight in southern Afghanistan. They were divided into cells of 25 fighters assigned to one handler from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.

Each fighter was armed with an AK-47 and each cell received portable rocket launchers or machine guns like an RPG-7, a PKM, an 85-millimeter gun, and a Dushka machine gun.

He said there were signs that these cells were involved in conflict in Farah, Helmand, Ghazni, and Uruzgan, some of the provinces that have seen heavy fighting between members of the Afghan security forces and Taliban.

Explosive charges

Nabil also accused Pakistan of reopening and distributing weapons from at least four depots that he said were last used to dispense firearms to Mujahedeen fighters during the conflict with the former Soviet Union.

He said the depots were close to the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Miramshah, Peshawar, and Spin Tal.

Pakistan strongly denies allegations it supports the Afghan Taliban.

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Lt. Gen. Ehsanul Haq, the former head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, called the allegations “absolutely ridiculous.”

If Afghanistan was worried about militants coming from this side, he said, the best solution was to “harden, regulate, and stabilize” the border between the two countries, but that the Afghan government balked at any such suggestion.

Nabil, a longtime critic of Pakistan, was forced to resign after he publicly criticized his boss, President Ashraf Ghani, for engaging with Pakistan and trying to secure Pakistan’s help in restarting peace talks with the Afghan Taliban after an initial round failed.

Afghan Special Forces and policemen prepare themselves for battle with the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah capital of Helmand, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2016.
Afghan Special Forces and policemen prepare themselves for battle with the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah capital of Helmand, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2016.

Flow of militants

He now runs the charity Help for Afghan Heroes, which works for families of Afghan national security personnel killed or wounded in battle.

The former spy chief also criticized Pakistan’s military operation, called Zarb-e-Azb, saying it deliberately helped push some militants across the border into Afghanistan.

The operation, he said, was intentionally launched at a time when Afghan forces were busy with the second round of presidential elections and could not control militants crossing to their side of the border.

Nabil accused Pakistan of relocating several Afghan Taliban, particularly members of the Haqqani network, to other areas of Pakistan before launching its military operation, along with opening several mountain passes to allow some of them ­— along with members of other international militant groups like Jundullah, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) — to cross over to Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have said they shared their plans with both the government in Kabul and NATO forces in Afghanistan well ahead of time, but that both failed to take the necessary actions against possible infiltration of militants during the operation.

Competing interests

Commenting on reports of Iran’s support for the Taliban, the former spy chief said the country is using the Taliban as a tactical tool because it is afraid of Islamic State gaining ground. Most of the Iranian support, he explained, was in western Afghanistan bordering Iran, in the form of money or small arms.

He also said Russia’s interest in Afghanistan had increased since 2014 when violence reached northern Afghanistan near areas Russia considered its backyard.

Intelligence cooperation between China and Afghanistan, according to Nabil, had increased significantly during the last few years.

Afghanistan, he added, handed several members of ETIM to China that had been trained in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

That was when, according to Nabil, China’s interest in Afghanistan’s peace process increased and it became part of the efforts to help facilitate peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government.