(CNSNews.com) – As the Taliban targets three Afghan provincial capitals in fierce fighting, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan sparked a diplomatic spat with Pakistan Sunday by accusing it of aiding aggression against its neighbor and calling for sanctions against Islamabad.
Chris Alexander posted a photo on Twitter purporting to show “Taliban fighters waiting to cross the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan,” and added, “anyone still denying that Pakistan is engaged in an ‘act of aggression’ against Afghanistan is complicit in proxy war & war crimes.”
In that tweet and others, Alexander pushed for sanctions against Pakistan.
In one, he described Prime Minister Imran Khan as “a charlatan who has been among the Taliban’s most mindless, kneejerk boosters for decades. A pariah like Putin, he deserves only severe sanctions & one day a docket in The Hague.”
Alexander served as Canada’s ambassador in Kabul from 2003-2005, and as a deputy special representative of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from 2005-2009. He later served as minister of citizenship and immigration.
His tweet and photo about the fighters waiting on the Pakistan border resonated with some prominent Afghans.
Sediq Sediqqi, a former spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.N. “should share this photo and many other facts about the role of Pakistanis in Afghan war and destruction.”
Mahmood Miakhel, a former deputy defense minister and governor of Nangarhar province, also retweeted Alexander’s post.
“These terrorists, along w/ other groups of terrorists from neighboring & far distance countries under the protection of Taliban, enter across the Durand Line [border] with the clear consent of Pak. to destabilize Afg.” Miakhel tweeted. “Their goal is to challenge the world & turn Afg into another Syria.”
Afghan national lawmaker Mariam Solaimankhil posted the same photo, adding, “Imagine your country was being [attacked] by terrorists that have been legitimized by the west … and they’re able to just sit at a gate being protected by a neighboring country… what would you do? #SanctionPakistan”
Vice President Amrullah Saleh said Alexander “speaks for tens of millions of Afghans, hundreds of thousands of silent western veterans who aren't adequately represented in diplomacy & public arena.”
Hitting back at Alexander’s criticism, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudri called it “unwarranted,” “unfounded” and “misleading.”
“Such remarks betray a complete lack of understanding of the issue as well as ignorance of facts on ground,” he said.
“Now when the world has acknowledged what Pakistan and [Prime Minister] Imran Khan have consistently maintained about there being no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and the need for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement, such gratuitous commentary is deplorable,” Chaudri said.
“We have urged the Canadian authorities to take steps to address this motivated and malicious smear campaign.”
Alexander hit back, calling the claims of Khan, Chaudri, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi “a standing insult to all who have worked for peace & stability in Afghanistan. With their impunity cracking, accountability must follow.”
Pakistan’s close collusion with the Taliban dates back to the founding of the fundamentalist militia in the 1990s. After the extremists seized control of most of Afghanistan in the second half of that decade, Pakistan was one of just three countries to recognize its “Islamic Emirate” regime. (Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the others).
Pakistan only broke ties with the group under massive U.S. pressure after the Taliban’s al-Qaeda allies attacked the United States in Sept. 2001, the atrocity that triggered America’s longest war.
As the resurgent militia gains territory ahead of the departure of the remaining U.S. and coalition forces, Pakistan insists it is supporting the “peace process” between the Afghan government and Taliban.
The Taliban has seized control of dozens of mostly sparsely-populated rural districts across the country ahead of President Biden’s end-of-August target date for the last troops to leave.
Now three provincial capitals – Herat, Kandahar, and Lashkar Gah – are looking vulnerable too.
On Sunday Kandahar’s airport halted flights temporarily after rockets hit the runway.
Citing counter-terrorism officials, Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary reported the U.S. carried out airstrikes against Taliban positions in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, on Monday morning.
Sarwary also quoted a resident of Lashkar Gah as saying fighting was underway in the streets of the city.
And in the city of Herat, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces, backed by local militias, was continuing.
The Defense Ministry said on Monday morning 52 Taliban fighters had been killed in and around Herat in Sunday’s fighting, 36 in Lashkar Gah, and nine in Kandahar.
On Friday the UNAMA office in Herat was targeted by Taliban rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. An Afghan security guard was killed and others injured.
A U.N. spokesman said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, underlining that attacks against U.N. personnel and premises violated international law and could constitute war crimes.
Ghani accused the Taliban of trying to compel the government to surrender.
“The loss of a provincial capital would be a major blow to the Afghan government and a massive victory for the Taliban, which is fighting to restore its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” commented Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of its Long War Journal.