ISAF rocket pronouncement at odds with Afghan government
By HEATH DRUZIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 25, 2012
KABUL — After a high-level diplomatic meeting did nothing to stop a barrage of rockets being fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan, coalition officials condemned the attacks, blaming insurgents, a view that differs from both the Afghan government and provincial officials in the areas hit.
“ISAF joins the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in condemning cross-border insurgent indirect fire attacks,” a statement from the International Security Assistance Force says.
However, Afghan government and provincial officials have blamed Pakistan, some directly pointing to the Pakistani military, as firing the rockets that have killed several civilians and displaced hundreds of families along a violent, mountainous stretch of border.
Kabul has warned of “significant negative impact” on relations between the countries if Pakistan does not stop the shelling. It also threatened to report Pakistan to the U.N. Security Council.
On Tuesday, a government official said the ISAF pronouncement was “contradictory to our position.”
Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar province, where many of the rockets have fallen, said more rockets were fired Tuesday, despite an earlier meeting between the Afghan deputy foreign minister and Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. Rocket debris collected confirmed they were rockets from the Pakistani military, Wahidi said, without elaborating. He maintained Pakistan was trying to use the attacks to chase off villagers and push the Durand Line — the disputed border region.
He dismissed the ISAF notion that insurgents — who often fire homemade, wildly inaccurate rockets — were behind the attacks.
“The insurgents don’t have these types of rockets,” he said.
The Pakistani military has denied responsibility.
Ahmed Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute who often gives lectures on Afghanistan to U.S. military personnel, said the ISAF claim is dubious. Insurgents lack the firepower for sustained attacks, like those along the border, Majidyar said, and the very areas being attacked are some of the best sanctuaries for militants.
“I don’t believe they have that capability,” he said. “I also don’t see a reason for them to be attacking their own base.”
ISAF’s pronouncement could strain ties with the Afghan people and fuel conspiracy theories among Afghans, many of whom see the hand of Pakistan behind the rocket attacks and many of the country’s other ills, Majidyar said.
“I think the long-term implications could be very dangerous,” Majidyar said.
ISAF officials would not comment for this story but late Wednesday released a new statement about the rocket attacks that made no mention of insurgents.
The Sunday meeting between Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister and Pakistan’s ambassador to discuss the attacks failed to stop the rocket fire, and provincial government officials in the affected areas have warned of an “uprising” among the people if the attacks do not cease.
There have been occasional rocket attacks for about two years in northeastern provinces, like Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, but they have increased in intensity over the past three months, when 1,300 rockets have come over the border, killing eight villagers and wounding many more, according to Kunar provincial officials. Anger over the attacks reached a boiling point Friday, when four civilians were reportedly killed by rockets in Kunar province.