Afghanistan's intelligence chief accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping Taliban militants to carry out attacks in his country like the ones that killed 10 policemen Thursday.
Afghanistan has repeatedly called on Pakistan to sever all links with the Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s with significant support from Pakistan's military intelligence agency, known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Pakistan's government insists it no longer supports the militant group, but the country's civilian leaders have limited control over the agency.
The allegations came ahead of the unveiling of President Barack Obama's new strategy to curb rising violence in Afghanistan. Obama called the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to brief them on the new U.S. strategy on Thursday.
Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told the parliament Wednesday that the Pakistani agency provides support to the Taliban leadership council in the Pakistani city of Quetta headed by the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants over the border into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces.
The intelligence chief's allegations resembled similar claims made by U.S. and other Western countries with troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where most of the Taliban attacks take place.
Saleh criticized Pakistan for denying that Omar is based in its territory and said they refuse to crack down on Taliban militants on their border, viewing them as "a kind of weapon" that can be used in both Afghanistan and India.
"The Pakistani government is making excuses by saying these areas are out of their control," said Saleh.
Afghanistan has accused militants based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas or Pakistan's spy service of being behind several major attacks in Kabul, including the bombing of the Indian Embassy last July, an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April and an assault on the luxury Serena Hotel in January 2008.
By focusing the blame on militants in Pakistan, Saleh reinforced recent remarks by Obama, who has warned that militants using Pakistani territory to launch attacks should not be allowed free reign.
Obama called Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to brief them on the newly completed U.S. strategy to combat rising violence in the region, said the leaders' offices. Neither provided any details about the new plan, which is expected to increase both U.S. military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan. The plan is slated to be unveiled Friday.
U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001, but many militants fled south and east into Pakistan. With the help of bases inside Pakistan, the Taliban have staged a violent comeback in the last several years that has threatened Afghanistan's weak central government.
The New York Times carried a report on its Web site late Wednesday saying ISI operatives provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders, with proof of the ties coming from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The report cited American, Pakistani and other security officials who spoke anonymously because they were discussing confidential intelligence information.
The Pakistani officials said they had firsthand knowledge of the connections, though they denied that the ties were strengthening the insurgency. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Obama has already pledged to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to battle the Taliban and could send even more as part of the administration's new strategy.
Many of the troops will be sent to the south, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, where militants attacked a police checkpoint Thursday, killing nine policemen in Helmand province's Nahri Sarraj district , the Interior Ministry said. It blamed "enemies of Afghanistan," a common reference to Taliban militants.
Another officer was killed and two others were wounded in a search operation the police launched after the attack, said the deputy provincial police chief Kamal Uddin.
Taliban militants also attacked a police convoy in central Ghazni province Thursday, wounding six policemen, regional police spokesman Iqbal Gul Sapan said. Four militants were killed in the clash in Nani village near the provincial capital, he said.
The Interior Ministry said the police were transporting a militant prisoner at the time, adding that two civilians were wounded in the attack.