Pakistan-US Ties may Sour Again Following Kunduz Allegations

ISLAMABAD: Ties between Islamabad and Washington could sour once again after US intelligence officials tried to implicate Pakistan in the recent takeover of Afghanistan’s strategically important city of Kunduz by the Taliban.

The Pakistan Army had already rebutted claims by Afghan defence officials that Pakistani security officials played any role in the seizure of Kunduz. But, now the Associated Press (AP) ran a story quoting unnamed US officials that American special operations analysts believed that the Afghan hospital, which came under US attack earlier this month, was being used by a Pakistani intelligence operative to coordinate Taliban activity.

Read: Pakistani operative was using MSF hospital in Afghanistan as Taliban command post: report

AP claimed that the special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the alleged Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official familiar with the material.

The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control centre and may have housed heavy weapons, the report further said.

Pentagon declined to comment on the report while Doctors Without Borders, which was running the medical facility, denied hospital was being used as command and control center by Taliban or housing of any weapons.

Read: PM revises agenda amid delayed US drawdown

Asked to comment on the latest allegations, the foreign ministry spokesperson here termed the claims as baseless and unwarranted.

Qazi Khalilullah referred to earlier rebuttals issued by the Pakistan Army as well as the Foreign Office on the subject. He said Pakistan had already condemned the Taliban attack on Kunduz and stated time and again that it was against interfering in the internal matters of other countries including Afghanistan.

A security official was furious over the ‘deliberate campaign’ to malign Pakistan. The official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the latest story was just an attempt to deflect the pressure US had been facing for ‘its reckless’ use of force on a hospital.

Read: US troops use vehicle to force gate at bombed Afghan hospital

A US air strike on an MSF hospital had killed at least 22 patients and Doctors Without Borders staff and left many others seriously wounded, days after Taliban insurgents overran the northern Afghan city. The US had initially said the attack was to protect US troops engaged in a firefight and has since said it was a mistake.

Officials in Pakistan believe that certain elements hostile to Islamabad are trying to implicate the country’s security establishment in recent Kunduz attack. Officials said Pakistan had done more than any other country to help Afghanistan establish peace and stability.

“This is just an attempt by the US and Afghanistan to cover up their own failures,” remarked another official. The official said there seemed emerging a familiar patron to blame Pakistan for every failure in Afghanistan. The official warned that such approach could negatively affect its cooperation with the US to stabilize Afghanistan.

Read: MSF demands international probe into deadly Kunduz air strike

The development comes just days before PM Nawaz is all set to undertake a bilateral trip to Washington where he will hold talks with US President Barrack Obama.

Obama said that he would urge the Pakistani premier to persuade Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.

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