South Asia

Ex-UN official says Taliban infiltrating Afghan forces

Afghan National Army soldiers take position during a training program in Kabul on 28 August 2010
Image caption Most troops are loyal, the Afghan army says

The Taliban have infiltrated the Afghan army and police, a recently-retired United Nations official has warned.

Dr Antonio Maria Costa, former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said Taliban sleeper cells had been set up inside the security forces.

They had already carried out a number of attacks and were planning further attacks on Nato-led troops, he said.

A spokesman for the coalition forces said infiltration was a rare problem and most Afghan troops were loyal.

Dr Costa's comments come as the coalition is preparing to hand over control of the country's security to Afghan forces by 2014, the BBC's Gerry Northam reports.

Meeting the handover target in four years requires 141,000 new recruits to be found within a year - more than the current size of the Afghan army.

There are fears that the Taliban are taking the opportunity to enlist insurgents into the ranks.

Dr Costa, who ran the UN Office on Drugs and Crime until August, says enemy infiltrators are already in place.

"We have plenty of evidence we had a number of suicide attacks carried out by people who had been in the army, trusted because they were affiliated," Dr Costa told the BBC.

"Certainly there are sleeping cells, certainly there are individuals who are waiting for instruction to hit and that is one of the biggest problem, which we have seen in Afghanistan as of late."

In January, the Taliban said one of its fighters had infiltrated the Afghan army to carry out an attack which killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan.

And in November last year, an Afghan policeman shot dead five British troops in the southern province of Helmand.

Listen to a full report on this story on File on 4 on BBC Radio 4 at 2000 BST or listen again on the iPlayer.