- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Senior Pakistani officials are urging NATO countries to accept the Taliban and negotiate a series of regional peace agreements similar to those that Pakistan has reached in tribal areas along its border with Afghanistan.

Prior to last week’s NATO summit in Latvia, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri told foreign ministers from some NATO member nations that the Taliban was winning the war in Afghanistan and that NATO was bound to fail.

“Kasuri is basically asking NATO to surrender and to negotiate with the Taliban,” said one Western official who met the minister recently.

British Lt. Gen. David Richards, NATO’s force commander in Afghanistan, and Dutch Ambassador Daan Everts spent five days in Islamabad before the summit urging the Pakistani military to do more to rein in the Taliban, but left less than fully satisfied.

Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, said in an interview with Reuters news agency late last month that U.S. and British military actions in Afghanistan were merely feeding a “snowballing” insurgency.

“Either it is a lack of understanding or it is a lack of courage to admit their failures,” he said of the two countries.

Gen. Orakzai also said the Taliban now lead a Pashtun-based “national resistance” movement whose aim is to throw out Western occupation forces.

But his comments have deeply angered many Pashtuns on both sides of the border.

Gen. Orakzai is the mastermind of peace deals between the Pakistan army and fiercely independent Pashtun tribes on the Pakistani side of the border.

While the agreements require tribal leaders to stop al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from crossing into Afghanistan, U.S. commanders in the region say attacks have increased since they were negotiated. Critics also say strict Islamist rule is being introduced in the areas.

Gen. Orakzai has also advocated similar deals in Helmand province, where British troops have been under siege for months.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that such a deal already was negotiated a month ago by Helmand Gov. Mohammed Daud.

As a result, both the British army and Taliban forces had withdrawn from the district of Musa Qala in northern Helmand, the newspaper said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly approved the deal, albeit with reservations.

Many Afghans fear that Pakistan is deliberately trying to undermine Mr. Karzai and NATO’s commitment to his government in an attempt to reinstall its Taliban proxies in Kabul.

A group of British parliamentarians heard similar messages from their Pakistani counterparts during a visit to Islamabad last week, Reuters news agency reported.

Several Pakistani senators referred to insurgents fighting NATO, U.S. and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan as “the resistance” during an exchange of views with the visiting House of Commons foreign-affairs committee.

“We do feel the situation in Afghanistan has, of late, deteriorated, in part because of mistakes made by policy-makers in Washington and in London,” said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s own foreign-affairs committee, Reuters reported.

“There have to be negotiations, a dialogue with all elements of Afghan society — ethnic or political, including, frankly, members of the resistance,” said Mr. Sayed, secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.

This year has been the bloodiest in an insurgency that has slowly gained strength since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001.

About 3,800 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, including scores killed in suicide attacks, and in operations by foreign forces across the country, according to the government and U.N. estimates.

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