Taliban Rejects Peace Talks Because They 'Think They're Winning' (VIDEO)

Today's AfPak news round-up.

"We're funding both sides of the war" -- Afghan contractors accused of using U.S. money to bribe Taliban. A number of security contractors in Afghanistan, who are paid millions by Washington to guard U.S. convoys and bases, are also believed to have paid insurgents to attack convoys guarded by their competitors, and even NATO forces, to "increase the sense of risk on the roads." These allegations raise questions about the links between the Afghan government and insurgent forces, as many security firms are owned by relatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan officials. Two investigations—one by the House subcommittee on national intelligence, and another by a group employed by NATO—are looking into the allegations. [NYT]

Karzai fires interior and intelligence chiefs. The Afghan president said he dismissed Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Salih because of their failure to prevent an insurgent attack on last week's peace conference, but some observers say other factors were likely in play: Salih and Atmar had differed with Karzai over negotiations with the Taliban and over Karzai's plan to release Taliban detainees. Others believe Karzai targeted them because of their close ties to Washington, while still others think Karzai acted under pressure from Pakistan and Iran, which had long expressed dissatisfaction with Salih and Atmar's accusations that these countries were aiding the Taliban. Atmar and Salih were among the few Afghan officials not tainted by allegations of corruption. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the firings an "internal matter," but urged Karzai to nominate replacements of "equal caliber." [AP, RFE-RL]

Holbrooke backs peace deal with Taliban. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Taliban members who rejected Al Qaeda and laid down their -- including Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar -- could be allowed to share power in Kabul. "A clear-cut military victory," he added, was no longer an option for the United States. [DAWN]

VIDEO: Taliban rejects peace offer. Reporters speaking with Taliban forces on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border found little willingness among the insurgents to negotiate with Kabul. The reason, they say, is simply that they "think they're winning." [Al Jazeera English]