WASHINGTON, Oct 12: The arrest of a senior TTP leader in Afghanistan has become a major dispute between Afghan and American officials, who captured him.
The Washington Post quoted Afghan officials as saying that US personnel snatched Latif Mehsud, a senior ‘commander’ of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, from Afghan intelligence officials in Logar province.
The newspaper reported that the dramatic capture had enraged Afghan President Hamid Karzai and was “a new irritant” in the talks for a military deal with Kabul.
US and Afghan officials are negotiating a deal for keeping a small US and Nato force in Afghanistan at the end of their formal combat operations next year.
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Karzai, told the paper that the 30-year old TTP ‘commander’ was a major intelligence asset.
Afghan officials succeeded in convincing Mehsud to meet them after “months of conversations,” Mr Faizi said.
Operatives of Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, were taking him to one of their facilities in Logar where they were to “start debriefing him”.
“The Americans forcibly removed him and took him to Bagram,” said the spokesman.
Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith, however, described Mehsud’s capture as a ‘lawful operation’.
“As part of the armed conflict against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, authorised by Congress in the 2001 Authorisation for the Use of Military Force, Mehsud was captured and is being lawfully held by US military forces in Afghanistan,” she said.
A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, described Mehsud as a terrorist leader.
“I can confirm that US forces did capture TTP terrorist leader Latif Mehsud in a military operation,” she said.
Ms Harf identified Mehsud as a senior commander in TTP who “served as a trusted confidant” of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
The State Department official pointed out that TTP had claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of New York’s Times Square in 2010 and had vowed to attack the US homeland again.
“TTP is also responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians,” she said.