Pakistan’s military brushed off speculation today that a new US strategy for neighbouring Afghanistan could include taking a stronger line against Islamabad, insisting the country has done all it can to tackle militancy. US President Donald Trump is set to announce his long- awaited decision on America’s way forward in Afghanistan later Monday, nearly 16 years after the US invasion, and reports claim it could include changes in Washington’s policy towards Pakistan.
Some in Washington believe Islamabad has not done enough to persuade the Afghan Taliban to renounce violence, and doubt its willingness to tackle the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, based in the border areas between the two countries and long thought to have ties to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment. But on Monday a Pakistani military spokesman said no group had been spared in ongoing offensives against militants, telling a press conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi hours before Trump’s announcement “there is no organised infrastructure of any terrorist organisation in Pakistan”.
“Let it come,” army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters, referring to Trump’s decision. “Even if it comes… Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest.” Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, the Haqqani network has carried out numerous operations deep in the heart of Kabul, and have been blamed by Afghanistan for a devastating truck bombing that killed more than 150 people in the capital in May.
Last month, the US Defense Department withheld USD 50 million in Pakistan military payments after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis determined Islamabad was not doing enough to counter the Haqqanis. But Ghafoor said the network had not been exempted during recent offensives targeting insurgent strongholds in the country’s restive tribal belt along the Afghan border.
“We carried out indiscriminate operation, across the board and did not ask anyone that what kind of terrorist you are,” Ghafoor said. The Pakistani military has “cleared all the areas”, he said, adding that the country had gone beyond its capacity to tackle militancy. Pakistan frequently fires back at US criticism of its tactics, saying the country has yet to receive appropriate credit for the tens of thousands of lives lost and billions spent battling extremists.