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Afghan Lawmakers Oppose Militant Handover To Pakistan


Latif Mehsud

KABUL -- Afghan lawmakers have opposed the reported transfer of three senior militants, including a senior Pakistani Taliban commander, to Islamabad by the United States.

On December 6, the U.S. military said it had "transferred custody" of three Pakistani detainees held inside Afghanistan to Islamabad.

The U.S. statement didn't name the detainees. But unnamed Pakistani security officials say that Latif Mehsud, a senior commander of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is the most prominent among the repatriated detainees.

Afghan lawmakers, however, have termed the transfer a violation of their country's sovereignty.

Lawmaker Haji Mohammad Nazir Ahmadzai says the handover violates some of the agreements between Afghanistan and the United States. "They have no right to hand over someone detained inside Afghanistan without even consulting us."

Gul Badshah Majidi, another member of parliament, agrees. He tells Radio Free Afghanistan that Mehsud was arrested inside Afghanistan last year and Washington should have handed him over to Kabul.

"I think America has reached many covert agreements with Pakistan over Afghanistan," he says.

Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the lower house of Afghan parliament, also criticized the move and asked the domestic security committee to probe senior officials about the transfer.

"Releasing [or transferring] known terrorists such as Latif Mehsud is a concern for Afghans," he said. "This is because Afghans see the capture of such figures as major blows to the terrorists."

Afghan presidential spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai says his government is looking into the reported transfer.

"The individuals you are asking about were not in the custody of the government of Afghanistan," he tells Radio Free Afghanistan. "For now, we are working on gathering the details and more information about this issue."

An Afghan intelligence source, who requested anonymity, also confirmed the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), had no information about Mehsud's transfer.

Mehsud, believed to be a close aid of deceased TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, was captured in southeastern Afghanistan last year.

"The New York Times" reported that U.S. Special Forces snatched Mehsud from an NDS convoy that was taking him to Kabul for talks with Afghan officials. The newspaper said he was part of a botched Kabul plan to foster an arrangement with TTP to take revenge on Pakistani military, which is often blamed for sheltering the Afghan Taliban and has a long history of sponsoring Afghan Islamist guerillas.

In recent weeks, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has maneuvered carefully in attempts to reset relations with neighboring Pakistan. In a highly symbolic act, he visited the general headquarters of the Pakistani Army in mid-November and talked of bolstering security and defense ties with the country.

Observers say he directly reached out to Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to secure his backing for a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban.

The transfer might complicate such efforts. In a statement e-mailed to the media on December 8, TTP criticized Ghani for Mehsud's transfer.

"Such acts cannot be expected from an Afghan and a Muslim," the statement said.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on reporting by Safiullah Stanekzai from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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