Eleanor Mayne – Telegraph.co.uk December 30, 2007
Two European diplomats accused of holding secret talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan were thrown out of the country following a complaint by the US, intelligence officials in Kabul have told The Sunday Telegraph.
Mervyn Patterson, who is British, and Irish-born Michael Semple were flown out of Kabul on Thursday after the Afghan government accused them of "threatening national security".
The pair had been working for the United Nations and the European Union respectively.
But according to a senior Afghan intelligence source, American officials had been unhappy about meetings between the men and high-level Taliban commanders in the volatile Helmand province.
The source claimed that the US alerted Afghan authorities after learning that the diplomats were providing direct financial and other support - including mobile phone cards - to the Taliban commanders, in the hope of persuading them to swap sides.
"This warning came from the Americans," he said. "They were not happy with the support being provided to the Taliban. They gave the information to our intelligence services, who ordered the arrests."
A government source in Kabul said there were close links between Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the US Central Intelligence Agency, adding:
"The Afghan government would never have acted alone to expel officials of such a senior level. This was information that was given to the NDS by the Americans.
" These claims will reinforce perceptions of a rift between the US and its international partners in Afghanistan, including Britain.
Last year, US commanders expressed frustration with the British decision to withdraw from Musa Qala and allow tribal elders to strike a deal with the Taliban, who quickly reoccupied the town.
The American embassy has strongly denied any involvement in the incident involving the two diplomats, saying it had "no knowledge" of their activities.
Afghan officials, speaking anonymously, have accused the men of giving support to the Taliban in the form of money, food and phone cards for 10 months.
Last updated 02/01/2008