India, Afghanistan gave help to Pakistani Taliban, says group's ex-spokesman

Reuters , Wednesday 26 Apr 2017

Taliban fighters
Taliban fighters (AP)

Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies gave funds and other assistance to Pakistani Taliban militants to fight Islamabad, the group's former spokesman, who surrendered last week, said in a video released by Pakistan's military on Wednesday.

Afghanistan strongly refuted the claim, while India's Ministry of External Affairs said it was not yet able to comment on the video. Both Kabul and New Delhi have often accused Pakistan of masterminding terror attacks on their soil.

Liaquat Ali, better known by his nom de guerre, Ehsanullah Ehsan, was a senior commander for the Pakistani Taliban, and later for a Taliban breakaway faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

Ehsan led both groups' media campaigns, becoming a household name as the Islamist militants claimed responsibility for mass bombings and attacks that wrought chaos on Pakistan.

In his first appearance since it was announced last week he had surrendered, Ehsan alleged India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan's NDS provided extensive help to the Pakistani Taliban or TTP.

Ehsan said "relations with NDS and RAW grew" after Pakistan's military launched a major military campaign against the Taliban in their strongholds in North Waziristan in 2014, forcing the militants to flee across the border to Afghanistan.

"They supported (TTP), extending financial assistance and they also gave targets, and for each attack (TTP) charged a price," Ehsan said in the video, which shows him wearing a traditional shalwar kamiz outfit with a Pashtun flat cap.

Reuters and other media have not been able to obtain access to Ehsan or verify his claims. The Pakistani Taliban could not be reached for comment.

A senior Afghanistan security official dismissed Ehsan's comments as spin by Pakistan, which is accused of providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban militants who are looking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul.

"Pakistan has always been pushing this narrative of being victim of terrorism while the fact it sponsors and supports terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India," the Afghan security official said.

"Now Pakistan is under enormous pressure from the international community to crack down on extremists and it is trying to evade responsibility by playing victim once again."

New Delhi has waged a diplomatic campaign to isolate Pakistan after alleging Islamabad helped militants attack an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir last year.

The United States has also been pressuring Islamabad to tackle the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a group which Washington considers a terrorist organisation and which is aligned with the Afghan Taliban.

Ehsan said another way Afghanistan's NDS agency helped the Pakistani Taliban was by providing militants with identity cards to ease their movement inside Aghanistan.

"Their movement used to take place with the blessing of NDS and Afghan forces," Ehsan said during the 6-minute video.

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