As the war in Afghanistan hit the 10-year mark today, President Hamid Karzai claimed the Taliban are being propped up by neighboring Pakistan, saying the militants can't lift a finger without the Pakistanis.
The war will only end when something is done to rout insurgents from their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, Karzai said in an interview with the BBC that aired today, exactly 10 years after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001.
The invasion was aimed at toppling the hard-line Taliban regime and punishing it for giving safe harbor to al-Qa'ida, which orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Over the years, the US-led coalition became mired in a battle against insurgents who have been weakened by international troops yet continue to plant bombs and stage suicide attacks and assassinations of top Afghan figures.
"Definitely, the Taliban will not be able to move a finger without Pakistani support," Karzai said. "The fact is the Taliban were and are stationed, in terms of their political headquarters and operational headquarters, in Pakistan. We all know that. The Pakistanis know that. We know that."
Militant sanctuaries in Pakistan won't go away unless the government of Pakistan cooperates with Afghanistan and the international community finds an effective way to remove the hide-outs, he said.
"We're not saying this in a manner of accusation and reprimand," Karzai added, trying not to inflame already strained relations between the two nations. "We are saying this in a manner of a statement intended towards a solution of the problem."
Pakistan maintains it cut off ties to the Taliban and other militants following the US invasion of Afghanistan, but Washington and Kabul say otherwise.
President Barack Obama said Thursday that Pakistan was "hedging its bets" by maintaining ties to militant groups trying to undermine the Afghan government. Obama also acknowledged that the United States has not been able to persuade Pakistan that the US goals of a stable Afghanistan pose no threat to Pakistan.
Just-retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen went further, recently calling the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani insurgent network a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani intelligence agency. Mullen also alleged that Pakistani intelligence supported militants who mounted a recent 20-hour rocket attack on the US Embassy and Nato headquarters in the capital, Kabul.
In the wide-ranging interview, Karzai candidly said the Afghan government and international allies have failed to provide security for the Afghan people. He also said that his government wants to talk to the Taliban, but doesn't know where to contact legitimate representatives of the insurgency.
Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the government's U.S.-backed effort to talk peace with the Taliban, was killed Sept. 20 by an assassin who claimed to be an emissary from the Taliban. Upon meeting Rabbani, the killer detonated explosives he had tucked into his turban — a deadly blast that dealt a major setback to efforts to find a political resolution to the war.
The Afghan government with support from its international allies has been making peace overtures to the Taliban for years. But after Rabbani's death, Karzai shifted his policy, saying he was giving up trying to talk to alleged Taliban envoys. He said Pakistan holds the only key to making peace with insurgents and must do more to support reconciliation.
"We have not said we will not talk to them (the Taliban)," Karzai said. "We've said we don't know who to talk to.
"We're not dealing with an identifiable individual as a representative of the Taliban, or a place that we can knock on and say, 'Well, here we are. We want to talk to you."'
"Until that place emerges — an address and a representative — we will not be able to talk to the Taliban because we don't know where to find them," he said.
The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for Rabbani's death.
Asked what needs to be improved in Afghanistan, Karzai acknowledged, "We've done terribly badly in providing security to the Afghan people and this is the greatest shortcoming of our government and of our international partners. What we should do is provide better and a more predictable environment of security to the Afghan citizens and in that, the international community and the Afghan government definitely have failed."
Violence continued Friday with attacks on at least three coalition posts in Paktika province near the Pakistan border.
A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near the entrance to Combat Outpost Margah, which had also been hit with 22 rockets, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Combat Forward Operating Base Tillman was hit with a half-dozen rockets and Forward Operating Base Boris was struck with two.
No deaths were reported among Nato service members.
Separately, the US-led coalition said Friday that it is conducting an investigation to determine how a NATO service member died in southern Afghanistan. Nato did not disclose any other details about what led to the service member's death on Thursday.
So far this year, 458 Nato troops have been killed in Afghanistan. The death is the fourth so far this month.
In the capital, former Afghan Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabet went missing Thursday afternoon after he was attacked by two gunman, said Mohammad Zahir, the chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police.