Fazlullah in Afghanistan; not US priority target: report | Pakistan Today

Fazlullah in Afghanistan; not US priority target: report

US officials have told The Washington Post that Fazlullah, the mastermind behind attack on Malala Yousafzai, is hiding in eastern Afghanistan but is not their priority target.
The newspaper also reported that International Security Assistance Force advisors believe that the Afghan army is giving refuge to Pakistani Taliban on its soil in reaction to militants getting a sanctuary on the Pakistani side.
A report in the paper said the Taliban leader, who sparked international outrage by ordering the attack on a Pakistani schoolgirl last month has escaped retribution by hiding in a section of eastern Afghanistan where U.S. forces are already spread thin and focused on other targets, according to U.S. officials.
US military and intelligence officials said that Mullah Fazlullah, the mastermind of the attack on 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, operates out a region adjoining Pakistan where several hundred US troops are stationed.
“But they said finding Fazlullah is not a priority because he is not affiliated with al Qaeda or with insurgents targeting US and Afghan interests.
“Our guys just aren’t tracking him,” a senior Special Operations official said. “He is viewed as an ‘other-side-of-the-border’ problem.”
Asked if Fazlullah was a priority, a senior intelligence official responded, “Not with so many other potential targets” in Afghanistan.
According to the report, Fazlullah’s relative safety reflects a larger trend in the difficult terrain along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Plenty of attention has been focused on militants attacking US and Afghan troops from havens inside Pakistan. But officials said extremists from Pakistan also have managed to evade the Pakistani army and CIA drones by finding sanctuary in remote parts of Afghanistan.
“The FATA is difficult [for insurgents] because there are drone strikes,” said a congressional staffer, using the acronym for semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Pakistan side of the border. “It’s easier to be in eastern Afghanistan where there’s no real presence” of US troops.
Tom Collins, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, said: “ISAF is maintaining steady pressure on insurgents throughout Afghanistan. Mullah Fazlullah, like many insurgents who are transitory, remains a person of interest. If we receive actionable intelligence that he is in Afghanistan, we will attempt to take him off the battlefield.”
The newspaper noted that collecting accurate intelligence is the most difficult step in locating and attacking enemy forces. In Konar and Nuristan, the two provinces where Fazlullah is believed to be hiding, the problem is tougher because ISAF advisers believe the Afghan army is allowing the Pakistani Taliban to operate in retribution for Pakistan not doing enough to stop cross-border rocket attacks and armed infiltrators using Pakistan as a haven.

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