- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan | Afghan officials lashed out at neighboring Pakistan on Monday, claiming its intelligence service and army are behind the bloody Taliban-led insurgency and calling the security forces the “biggest exporter of terrorism and extremism to the world, particularly Afghanistan.”

The Cabinet statement will likely strain already difficult relations between the two neighbors, whose shared porous border has become a safe haven for Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant groups, whose attacks have killed thousands and are threatening the stability of both countries.

“The murder, killing, destruction, dishonoring and insecurity in Afghanistan is carried out by the intelligence administration of Pakistan, its military intelligence institutions,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a separate statement.

“We know who kills innocent people,” the president said. “We have told the government of Pakistan and the world and from now on it will be pronounced by every member of the Afghan nation.”

In protest of what it called “direct interference in its internal affairs,” the Cabinet said it is suspending its participation in three upcoming meetings with Pakistani officials scheduled for the next few weeks.

The statement accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence of involvement in a number of recent attacks in the country - an attempted assassination of Mr. Karzai in April, the July 7 suicide bomb attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul that left over 60 people dead and a spate of suicide bombings and roadside bombs blamed on Taliban militants.

Pakistan’s top military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, declined to comment, referring a request for reaction to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq, who was in London en route home from an official visit to the United States, was not immediately available for comment.

Afghanistan has often in the past accused Pakistani intelligence of supporting the Taliban insurgency, a charge repeatedly denied by Pakistan’s leaders. Pakistan contends it is being blamed for the failings of the Karzai government, which is widely criticized by Afghans as ineffective and corrupt.

Pakistan was once a key backer of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but formally abandoned its support after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Still, Taliban leaders are suspected of receiving shelter in Pakistan’s religiously conservative tribal region.

U.S. officials have blamed rising violence in Afghanistan on peace deals that Pakistan’s new government has negotiated in its tribal regions along the border.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops on Monday reinforced a remote military outpost after well-armed militants got inside and killed nine American soldiers in the deadliest assault on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in three years.

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