In its first report submitted to the United States (US) Congress since Washington adopted a new strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia, the US Defence Department said that the Taliban and the Haqqani network are roaming free in Pakistan.
“Although Pakistani military operations have disrupted some militant sanctuaries, certain extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network retains freedom of movement in Pakistan. The US continues to convey to all levels of Pakistani leadership the importance of taking action against all terrorist and extremist groups,” Tolo News quoted the report as saying.
The Pentagon also said that terrorist safe havens along the Durand Line and the presence of terrorists in Afghanistan are threatening the stability of the region.
“The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remains a sanctuary for various groups, including al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ISIS-K, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Sanctuary on the Pakistani side and presence on the Afghan side remain security challenges for both countries and pose a threat to regional security and stability,” the report added.
The report said that Afghanistan was fighting militants who were being empowered from outside the country.
“Afghanistan continues to face an externally enabled and resilient insurgency. As Afghanistan completes its third year of full responsibility for the security of the country, Afghan forces have shown determination and growing capability in their fight against the Taliban-led insurgency,” the Pentagon report said.
However, Pakistan is not the only country criticised by the Pentagon report. The report is critical of Iran and Russia, saying that Russia is trying to weaken US’s efforts in Afghanistan. The report adds that Iran is damaging Afghanistan by backing the Taliban.
“Russia has security concerns regarding Afghanistan, citing terrorism and narco-trafficking concerns most vocally. Russian-Afghan relations suffered due to Russia’s public acknowledgment of communications with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call for coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The report also said that Russia publicly called the new South Asia Strategy a ‘dead end’.
“During the reporting period, Russia continued to seek ways to undermine US influence in the region by disseminating false information about US objectives, engaging with the Taliban, and putting pressure on Central Asian neighbours to deny support to US and NATO efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.”
The report further said that, “Iran provides some support to the Taliban and publicly justifies its relationship with the Taliban as a means to combat the spread of ISIS-K in Afghanistan. Iran’s support to the Taliban undermines the Afghan government’s credibility, adds to instability in the region, and complicates strategic partnership agreements”.