The intelligence community in the United States is believed to have informed the U.S. Congress that Pakistan has by and large failed to curb militants and terrorists operating from its soil. It added that because of this failure, “these (terror) groups will (continue to) present a sustained threat to American interests in the region, and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan.
According to the Dawn, during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and the ongoing war against terror elements there, the intelligence chiefs reportedly gave a candid assessment of the situation in war-torn Afghanistan to the Senate Armed Services Committee. A transcript, released this weekend, shows that though much of the debate focused on Pakistan, there was a concern expressed that despite increased military efforts to defeat the Taliban, these militants would continue to make gains, especially in the rural areas of Afghanistan.
“Afghan security forces’ performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support and weak leadership,” warned National Intelligence Director Dan Coats. Coats leads a team of more than a dozen spy agencies, including the CIA and FBI. Illinois Republican Senator Joni Kay Ernst asked the intelligence chiefs to spell out the measures that Washington would like Kabul’s neighbours to take to help stabilise the region.
“I think certainly an evaluation of how we work with Pakistan to address the situation of the harbouring of terrorist groups would be essential to a strategy that affects Afghanistan,” Coats replied. “Because that is potentially a very disrupting situation, putting our own troops at risk and undermining the strategy of dealing with the Taliban and local groups that are trying to undermine the (Afghan) government. So it’s a very clear link that I think would have to be addressed in conjunction with whatever’s done in Afghanistan.”
“Besides more troops, which I anticipate might be part of the plan that we see, we need to implement a different strategy on the ground in Afghanistan?” Senator Ernst asked Defence Intelligence director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart “We’ve got to get a couple of things. One, very clear that Afghanistan’s security and stability is in the interest of all of the parties in the region and does not pose a risk to Pakistan,” Lt. Gen. Stewart replied. “We’ve got to convince Pakistan that if they’re harbouring any of the Haqqani network members that it is not in their interest to continue to host the Haqqani network.” Lt, Gen. Stewart also urged the Trump administration to work with Afghanistan’s neighbours to go after the 20 terrorist organisations that were still active in the region. “They undermine not just Afghanistan, not just Pakistan, but all of the region,” he added.
Lt. Gen. Stewart also suggested “pushing” Pakistan to do more against the Haqqani network and urged US policymakers to “separate the Taliban from the Pashtun”, because Pakistan wanted a Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan. “So we’ve got to get the conversation going again with Pakistan about their role in not harbouring any of these terrorists, helping to stabilise Afghanistan and, I think, maybe, we’ll have some progress,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Stewart said he believed Pakistan still had some influence in bringing Taliban to the table. “So we’ve got to get them to think about reconciliation, that the status quo is not in their best interest,” he said. The intelligence chiefs also flagged the issue of Pakistan’s concern over India’s influence in Afghanistan, and cautioned that the latter could look to China to offset this perceived imbalance in regional geo-politics and end its so-called global isolation.
“They view all of the challenges through the lens of an Indian threat to the state of Pakistan. So they hold in reserve terrorist organisations… so that — if Afghanistan leans towards India, they will no longer be supportive of an idea of a stable and secure Afghanistan that could undermine Pakistan interests,” he said.