US urged to do more on Afghan terror groups

ISLAMABAD: Former top military and civilian officials of the  US and Pakistan have agreed that the United States needs to do more against terrorist groups based in Afghanistan like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaatul Ahrar who are involved in devastating attacks inside Pakistan.

The participants of the fourth round of US-Pakistan Track-II Dialogue, which concluded here on Tuesday, agreed that both sides should continue to cooperate against terrorist groups that are seen as threat by both sides, organisers said at a press conference after the dialogue. “This is significant that there seems to be fair
amount of support from American side to the idea of US needing to do more against terrorist groups based in Afghanistan amidst concerns expressed by the Pakistani side,” said Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, the joint host of dialogue.

Pakistan has been repeatedly expressing concern over the use of Afghan territory to launch terror attacks inside the country.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif and US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale inaugurated the dialogue on Monday. Former diplomats, former civil and military officials and experts attended it from both sides. The US and Pakistani participants will also be taken on a tour of Waziristan today (Wednesday) to witness restoration of peace in the former terror hotbed after the successful military operation. They will also witness Pakistan military’s efforts to fence the country’s porous border with Afghanistan which is allegedly used for cross border terrorism.

The participants prepared recommendations for the two governments at a time when the bilateral relations are under extreme pressure after the announcement of new South Asia Strategy by US President Donald Trump.  Among the recommendations there was also a proposal for the United States to play a role in improving Pakistan’s ties with India and Afghanistan. It was agreed that although the US may not be able to play a direct role to facilitate a dialogue between Pakistan and India, Washington should take up the matter with New Delhi during bilateral meetings.

Deradicalisation in Pakistan was also among the recommendations put forward by the participants. “National Action Plan (NAP) has not been fully implemented as the civilian government failed to cover 17 required areas of the plan” said Raoof Hasan, Chief Executive of Regional Peace Institute, which co-hosted the dialogue.  The group recommended that Pakistan should fulfil its promise on action against groups like LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) which uses its soil for cross border terrorism. Concern was expressed over Pakistan’s economy, especially about the rising debt which participants fear may become unmanageable in future. 

Need for Pakistan-Afghanistan border management was also discussed but the current fencing of the border by Pakistan was neither criticised nor supported by the US side, Raoof said. He admitted that there are serious divergences in relations between the two countries but there is still a desire for cooperation, as neither side wants the ties to collapse. The American side is not satisfied with Pakistani measures against terrorism and especially against the Haqqani network while Pakistan expressed concern over the US support for the increasing Indian role in Afghanistan. To a question, he said the US supports the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) despite a recent contradictory statement by Defence Secretary Mattis.