Holbrooke regrets Kabul comments, lauds India’s Afghan role

Washington/New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke Friday went on a damage control exercise saying he regretted his comments made three days ago that Indians were not targeted in the Feb 26 Kabul attack and lauded India’s humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan.

‘I regret any misunderstanding caused by my comments on the recent terrorist attack in Kabul that claimed the lives of six Indians and at least 10 citizens of other nations,’ US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Holbrooke said in Washington.

‘I did not say Indians were not targeted, but that initially it looked like the target was not an official Indian facility,’ he said. ‘Early reports on events like this are often unreliable, and I try not to jump to conclusions,’ he explained.

‘We all know that Indian citizens have and continue to be targeted by terrorists, including inside Afghanistan,’ Holbrooke said. ‘My heart goes out to the families of all of the victims,’ he added.

Holbrooke’s clarification came just before National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon left New Delhi for Kabul to take stock of the progress in the probe into the attack.

Menon will also review the security of around 4,000 Indians engaged in various reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

Holbrooke’s clarification came after Indian authorities conveyed their unhappiness to Washington over his remarks.

In a view to pacify New Delhi, Holbrooke praised India’s reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.

‘The willingness of India to take risks and make sacrifices to help Afghanistan is testament to India’s commitment global peace and prosperity and a vital part of the international commitment to Afghanistan’s future,’ he said.

India has pledged $1.3 billion aid for multifarious reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

A government source, familiar with developments in Afghanistan, told IANS in New Delhi: ‘We are glad that he has revised his view of the Kabul attacks. India has not a shred of doubt that the terrorists targeted Indians and India’s good work in Afghanistan.’

Holbrooke’s view jarred New Delhi and came amid intelligence reports that terrorists were planning to target Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad.

On Tuesday, at a media briefing in Washington, Holbrooke had said: ‘First of all, in regard to this attack, I don’t accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the embassy.’

‘There were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt. It was a soft target. And let’s not jump to conclusions,’ he told reporters.

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), has said there was evidence that Urdu-speaking Pakistanis from Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba were involved in the attack and not the Afghan Taliban.

The NDS has told Indian authorities that the terrorists were looking for Indians and had specific information about who was present, including women from SEWA, an India-based NGO.

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