Interview with Top Afghan Security Adviser 'The Stream of New Insurgents Is Almost Endless'

As the security situation worsens in Afghanistan, German soldiers are coming under increasing attack. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, senior Afghan security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta discusses the roots of terror, Pakistan's role in the violence and whether Germany should keep its forces in the country.
Afghan boys watch a German soldier in northern Afghanistan in December 2010.

Afghan boys watch a German soldier in northern Afghanistan in December 2010.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given NATO an ultimatum. Angered by civilian casualties, he has said that Afghans will start regarding Western soldiers as occupiers if they continue to conduct airstrikes on private homes. Are German soldiers still welcome in Afghanistan?

Rangin Dadfar Spanta: This is his final word on this matter, and it should be taken seriously. We have the impression that people in Washington have understood it. If nothing changes, sentiments among the population will start turning against NATO.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: There have recently been three deadly attacks on German soldiers and on General Daud Daud, the police chief of northern Afghanistan. Why has the situation there gotten worse?

Spanta: A network of the Taliban, al-Qaida and their Pakistani supporters are behind this. They are pursuing a new tactic after having been forced to give up a number of areas last winter. They're trying to hit senior figures.


Photo Gallery: The Worsening Situation in Northern Afghanistan

Foto: Caroline Seidel/ dpa

SPIEGEL ONLINE: American special forces have taken out a number of Taliban leaders in the north. Who are the new attackers?

Spanta: Even if European countries refuse to acknowledge it, the resistance is now being orchestrated by terrorist centers in Pakistan, the Quetta Shura (editor's note: the innermost circle of Taliban leaders), the Haqqani network, the group of (Gulbaddin) Hekmatyar and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 in the al-Qaida leadership. There are 40,000 madrassas -- or religious schools -- in Pakistan, and even if only a small fraction of them support the terrorists, the stream of new fighters is almost endless. There will only be peace in this region when this source has been dried up.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can negotiations with the Taliban solve the problem?

Spanta: They could be helpful if Pakistan were willing to support the peace process. But that's not the case. Pakistan has a different strategy: The West is obviously weary and will soon withdraw. Then, in one or two years, Pakistan can finally move into Afghanistan and use it as a strategic area. That's what this is all about.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did Pakistani leaders know that Osama bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad?

Spanta: I am convinced that top-level officials had been informed. Without institutional, state support, Osama bin Laden wouldn't have been able to hide in Pakistan for so long. A few years back, our intelligence chief gave General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president at the time, exact coordinates on where Osama bin Laden was staying. But Musharraf only ridiculed him. But now it has emerged that the information was only a few miles off from the place where bin Laden was actually found.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, stay or go?

Spanta: It's understandable that the Germans are discussing whether they want to keep on investing their money and the lives of their soldiers in this conflict. We view it as a common cause; we have the same goal. Though even my name is on the terrorist hit lists, I will remain here and fight for peace here in my homeland -- even if the others pull out.

Interview conducted by Susanne Koelbl
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