Taliban-led insurgents are winning ever-greater public support in Afghanistan for a struggle that is taking on the character of a "liberation war" against foreign troops, a senior Pakistani official claimed.
The remark by the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on Friday could inflame further a war of words between Kabul and Islamabad about who is responsible for the resurgence of militant activity in Afghanistan.
It could also dismay US and NATO commanders who say their beefed-up military operation is designed to pave the way for badly needed reconstruction aid.
Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, whose province includes areas where many Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants fled after a US-led military coalition drove them from Afghanistan five years ago, said cross-border attacks accounted for only a fraction of the insurgency in Afghanistan.
The main reason for the Taliban's return was the frustration of ethnic Pashtuns seeking more political say in Kabul and resentment of ongoing military operations and the lack of economic aid in the south and east of Afghanistan, he said.
"Today, they've reached the stage that a lot of the local population has started supporting the militant operations and it is developing into some sort of a nationalist movement, a resistance movement, sort of a liberation war against coalition forces," Aurakzai told reporters at a news conference.