LONDON, Feb 4: The so-called ‘war on terror’ appears to have gone haywire in Afghanistan as the occupying authorities seemingly have lost the direction and come into direct confrontation with the Hamid Karzai government, which they support.
The Independent on Monday, quoting intelligence sources in Kabul, said Britain had planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides. The plans were discovered on a “memory stick” seized by Afghan secret police in December.
An Afghan government source said the training camp was part of a British plan to use bands of reconciled Taliban, called Community Defence Volunteers, to fight the remaining insurgents. “The camp would provide military training for 1,800 ordinary Taliban fighters and 200 low-level commanders,” he said.
The Afghan government claims they can prove British agents were talking to the Taliban without permission from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, despite Gordon Brown’s pledge that Britain will not negotiate.
President Karzai has expelled two top diplomats for taking “important tactical” decisions without prior approval from his government.
The Britain insists that President Karzai’s office knew what was going on. The row was the first in a series of spectacular diplomatic spats which has seen Anglo-Afghan relations sink to a new low. Since December, President Karzai has blocked the appointment of Paddy Ashdown to the top UN job in Kabul and he has blamed British troops for losing control of Helmand.
President Karzai’s political mentor, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, endorsed a death sentence for blasphemy on the student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh last week, and two British contractors have been arrested in Kabul on, it is claimed, trumped up weapons charges. The developments are seen as a deliberate defiance of the British.
The camp was due to be built outside Musa Qala in Helmand. The British claim it was part of a package of reconstruction and development incentives designed to win trust and support in the aftermath of the British-led battle to retake the stronghold last year.
But the Afghans feared the British were training a militia with no loyalty to the central government. Intercepted Taliban communications suggested they thought the British were trying to help them, the Afghan official said.
The memory stick revealed that $125,000 had been spent on preparing the camp and a further $200,000 was earmarked to run it in 2008, an Afghan official said. The figures sparked allegations that British agents were paying the Taliban.
The camp would also have provided vocational training, including farming and irrigation techniques, to offer people a viable alternative to growing opium. But the Afghan government took issue with plans to provide military training to turn the insurgents into a defence force.