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Pakistan and Afghanistan: need for joint action against terrorism

Pakistan and Afghanistan
Pakistan and Afghanistan
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A five-member defense delegation from Pakistan has urged the United States to devise a mechanism for continuing to support the military operation against Taliban militants in North Waziristan and Northern areas even after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.The delegation, which visited the United States last week, has also asked the Obama administration to re-evaluate its plan to withdraw all American troops from the country by the end of 2016.
The delegation had a series of meetings with Pentagon and State Department officials and lawmakers in Washington and also visited Tampa, Florida, for a meeting with the Commander of the US Central Command, who supervises the region, which includes Pakistan.

“In all these meetings, they stressed the need for reviewing the US withdrawal plan and for developing a mechanism to help Pakistan fight the militants,” said an official familiar with the talks.
At the Pentagon, the delegation met the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Planning and at the State Department they met the US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the Hill, they met members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Later, the delegation briefed the U.S. media on these meetings and on the message they brought from Islamabad.
One of the main points of discussion in these talks was the expected expiration of the Coalition Support Fund after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials said that Pakistan’s struggle to eradicate militancy would continue after the U.S. withdrawal as well. They also said that due to Operation Zarb-i-Azb, they had increased their troop deployment along the Afghan border, from 150,000 to 175,000.

They argued that Pakistan would need international support for maintaining such a large number of troops along the border and for continuing the fight against the militants.
“That’s why they urged the US administration to device a mechanism for continuing to support Pakistan after the expiry of the Coalition Support Fund as well,” said the official familiar with the talks.
The Pakistani delegation also informed the Americans that the militants fleeing from Pakistan had set up camps in Nooristan (Afghanistan) and were using those “safe havens” in Afghanistan for carrying out attacks on Pakistani troops.
Taliban launched two raids into Pakistan in less than a month, killing a number of Pakistani troops, including two army captains.
The Pakistanis were also worried that Afghans officials had allowed unchecked movement of 30 to 40 thousand refugees, fleeing the military operation.
Meanwhile, the U.S. media, which was briefed by the delegation, reported that Pakistan wanted the White House to “urgently … re-evaluate its plan to withdraw all American troops from the country by the end of 2016.”
The Pakistanis argued that “the Obama administration would destabilize Afghanistan if it carried through with its drawdown plans, which would send at least 1.5 million refugees -- including unknown numbers of militants -- streaming across the border into Pakistan,” reported the Foreign Policy news site.

The Pakistani delegation also argued that the administration had based its withdrawal plans on three conditions: free and fair elections leading to a peaceful transfer of power; a bilateral security arrangement allowing US troops to remain in the country; and building a strong Afghan army.
None of these conditions had yet been met.

The above press report on the submission of Pakistan is of critical significance and needs evaluation in view of the American foreign policy ideals:
1. The withdrawal of NATO and U.S. Military troops from Afghanistan will create a void. The Afghan National Army and the new government of Afghanistan will not be able to deal with security issues that they are confronted with. AlQaeda and Taliban militants based in Afghanistan, coming to fill this void would be disastrous, not only for the region but for the United States as well.
2. The U.S. and Afghan Government had called on Pakistan to take decisive military action against the terrorists in North Waziristan area, because of their militant activities in Afghanistan after sneaking through the porous border from Pakistan.
3. Now that a military operation has been launched by Pakistan and over five hundred terrorists killed and their hideouts destroyed, regrouping of the fleeing militants in Afghanistan to attack the Pakistan security forces from the Afghan territory makes this whole effort counter productive. It makes no sense to allow these terrorists to establish safe havens within Afghanistan.
4. This is a dangerous development, most probably the terrorists are being abetted by the local population in Afghanistan. The fact that the militants are able to attack Pakistani armed forces from across the Afghan border means they are being supplied with weapons, training, food, finances and moral backing. What is the source of this assistance; only the government in Afghanistan can answer.
5. The United States should carry out surveillance of the area bordering North Waziristan on the Afghan side and contemplate carrying out drone strikes on the terrorist hideouts similar to the ones in Pakistan.
6. Timing is of the essence; the targeting of the emerging and existing terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan must coincide with the ongoing military operation in Pakistan.
7. There is no point in eliminating terrorists in Pakistan, accruing a huge financial and military cost and at the same time allowing them to breed across the border in Afghanistan.

I have stated in my previous writings that durable security in Afghanistan and Pakistan is directly related to the security of the American homeland. Thinking that Afghanistan is distant and unable to cause any threat to the security of Western Europe or the United States is based on incorrect assumptions. The foreign policy experts in the U.S. State Department understand the significance of South Asia as a world stabilizer. It is extremely important to seize the opportunity of eliminating the terrorists in this region; more so to realize that the responsibility is equally shared by all actors.

Dawn News July 20, 2014

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