KABUL: Afghanistan is shocked by “Pakistan’s complacency” in the nascent Afghan peace process and is ready to work without Islamabad’s help on reconciliation, Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told Reuters on Wednesday.
It is the first time Afghanistan has suggested the possibility of going it alone without its neighbour.
Regional power Pakistan is seen as critical to stabilising Afghanistan because of its long ties to insurgent groups.
Ludin also said the government would look to senior Taliban prisoners recently handed over by the United States in Bagram prison to urge militants to pursue peace. He did not elaborate.
Afghan officials had been pushing Pakistan hard to influence the Taliban and other groups to join reconciliation efforts and Kabul had spoken of progress after Islamabad released some Taliban prisoners who could promote peace.
But Ludin, who is widely believed to shape foreign policy, told Reuters in an interview that Afghanistan had noted a shift in Pakistan’s position towards peace efforts that are gaining more urgency as foreign forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014.
“We here in Kabul are in a bit of a state of shock at once again being confronted by the depth of Pakistan’s complacency, we are just very disappointed,” he said.
“But what has happened in the last few months for us, (we) see that Pakistan is changing the goal post every time we reach understanding.”
Military trip cancelled
Afghanistan also cancelled a military trip to Pakistan due to what the foreign ministry called “unacceptable Pakistani shelling” of the country’s mountainous eastern borderlands.
The Afghan foreign ministry claimed more than two dozen Pakistani artillery shells were fired into its eastern province of Kunar on March 25 and 26.
The cancellation of the trip and days of angry diplomatic exchanges have placed further strain on an already fraught relationship.
Eleven Afghan National Army (ANA) officers had been due to take part in a simulated military exercise at the Staff College in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
“This visit will no longer take place due to the resumption of unacceptable Pakistani artillery shelling against different parts of Kunar province from across the Durand Line on Monday and Tuesday,” the ministry statement said.
A Pakistani military official told AFP it had “no details” of the cancellation and declined to give any other immediate response.
Taliban-Afghan govt 'nexus'
In a report released on Tuesday, Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency said there was “strong support” in Afghanistan for members of the Pakistani Taliban, which have been fighting against Islamabad for nearly six years.
Submitted to the Supreme Court as part of a long-running investigation into how the ISI holds terror suspects, the agency wrote of a “nexus” between members of the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan government.
“The strong support of miscreants, through provision of logistics, trainings and finances by the anti-Pakistan elements, specially from across the border, is one of the main factors for increased militancy,” the ISI said in English.
Last month, a conference of Afghan and Pakistani religious scholars aimed at pushing forward the peace process was called off due to disagreements.
The head of Pakistan's Ulema Council, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, said there was no point to the meeting unless the Afghan Taliban were invited.
He was then accused in Afghanistan of condoning suicide attacks in a television interview, in which he insists he was misunderstood. His public opposition against suicide attacks is well documented.
There was another spat over Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, a senior Pakistani Taliban fighter arrested recently in Afghanistan. Pakistan demanded he be handed over, but Kabul indicated he would be held as a bargaining chip for prisoner exchanges.
Pakistan has released at least 26 Afghan Taliban prisoners in recent months — a move that Kabul welcomed in the hope that they could help persuade the Taliban to enter into peace talks.
But there is little evidence that the prisoners have done so and Kabul is now increasingly impatient that other detainees, including former Afghan Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, have not been handed over.
“In recent months unfortunately, Pakistan's commitments, specially very strong commitments made during London talks were not fulfilled and we missed some good months,” Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Siamak Herawi told AFP recently.
A senior Pakistani security official was quick to hit back.
“The overall effort seems to be to sabotage the peace talks and not let Pakistan get close to the driving seat,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.