KABUL — Afghanistan's president forcefully accused Pakistan on Friday of sheltering Taliban insurgents, blaming the neighboring Muslim country for a recent wave of urban terrorist attacks that has roiled the nation and raised questions about his government's ability to protect the populace.
In a televised address, President Ashraf Ghani described Pakistan as the "center of Taliban terrorism" and demanded that Pakistani officials take swift, substantive steps to drive insurgents from their country. "The Afghan nation is waiting for clear action" from Pakistan, he said.
Pakistani officials immediately denied the allegations that they are harboring Taliban groups, including the Haqqani network, which claimed to have carried out several of the recent attacks. A Foreign Ministry statement in Islamabad said Afghanistan should focus on its domestic security lapses rather than blaming its neighbor.
Pakistan has repeatedly rejected similar accusations from U.S. officials, but the Trump administration recently suspended all military aid to the longtime security ally after saying Pakistan has not done enough to rein in the Haqqanis and other militant groups.
"We reject any allegations of support to the Haqqani network or the Taliban or them using our soil," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said in Islamabad. He said that "vast swaths" of Afghan territory are being used by terrorist groups as a sanctuary. "Blaming Pakistan for security lapses inside Afghanistan is unfair."
Despite their denials, Pakistani officials said they still intend to send a delegation of officials here in the next several days to discuss the issues.
Ghani, flanked by Muslim clerical leaders, reiterated charges made by two top security aides Thursday after they traveled to Pakistan. The Afghan interior minister and intelligence chief said they had shown officials there "undeniable evidence" that the attackers who staged several bombings and shooting raidsattacks in Kabul were trained and launched from Pakistan.
The aides said they gave Pakistani officials a list of individuals who orchestrated the attacks, as well as the locations of religious and training facilities for them. They said the information was gained in part from suspects arrested during the recent wave of violence, which left more than 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.
Ghani and his government have come under harsh new criticism for failing to provide security for civilians, who were deliberately targeted in most of the attacks. The president said Friday that he has ordered a broad review of security in the capital, and he recently said his new top priority was making changes in the security sector.
Critics have accused Ghani, who is expected to seek reelection next year, of letting political rivalries distract him from the more pressing issue of security. Former president Hamid Karzai, one of Ghani's sharpest critics, tweeted Friday that while the country is "under serious terrorist siege and threat, the government is focusing more on its political rivals to rid them ahead of the elections."
Groups of protesters gathered in the capital this week, denouncing both the Afghan and Pakistani governments, as frustration and anger exploded on social media. Many people and some opposition leaders have called on senior government officials to resign.
Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.