Posts Tagged ‘Haqqani network’

Pompeo, meeting Pakistan, calls on Taliban to negotiate

October 3, 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Afghanistan’s Taliban to come to the table to end the long-running war as he called on Pakistan to play a supportive role, the State Department said Wednesday.

Pompeo met in Washington with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in the latest US outreach to the government of new Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime advocate of a negotiated settlement with Islamist insurgents.

The top US diplomat, who met Khan last month in Islamabad, “emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Pompeo “agreed that there was momentum to advance the Afghan peace process, and that the Afghan Taliban should seize the opportunity for dialogue,” Nauert said of the meeting, which took place Tuesday

© AFP | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R)meets Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the US State Department in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018.

President Donald Trump has doubled down on the war effort in Afghanistan despite his past calls to end the longest-ever US war.

But diplomatic efforts have also intensified, with US officials meeting in July in Qatar with representatives of the Taliban, whose hardline regime was overthrown in a US-led operation in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The State Department notably did not say whether Pompeo addressed Pakistan’s position on extremism.

In August, Pompeo congratulated Khan in a telephone call on taking office, with the State Department saying that he asked Islamabad to “take decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan.”

Pakistan denied the account, saying that the issue never came up.

The United States has pressed for years for Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network as well as virulently anti-Indian groups that operate virtually openly in parts of the country.

Trump has suspended military assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan, accusing the country in which Osama bin Laden was found hiding of duplicity.

AFP

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After strategic dialogue, India and US send a message to Pakistan

September 7, 2018

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attack, India and the US called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot (2016), Uri (2016), and other cross-border terrorist attacks.

WORLD Updated: Sep 06, 2018 19:15 IST

India US 2+2 talks,India Pakistan,Mumbai attacks
Pakistani rangers (wearing black uniforms) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officers lower their national flags during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint check-post at Wagah border, near Lahore.(Reuters File Photo)

India and the US Thursday asked Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terror attacks and expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of cross-border terror strikes, including those on Mumbai, Pathankot and Uri.

The stern warning to Pakistan came after India and the US held their first 2+2 dialogue in Delhi, during which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held wide-ranging deliberations with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.

“The ministers announced their intent to increase information-sharing efforts on known or suspected terrorists and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2396 on returning foreign terrorist fighters,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.

“The ministers denounced any use of terrorist proxies in the region, and in this context, they called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries,” it said.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attack, they also called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot (2016), Uri (2016), and other cross-border terrorist attacks, the statement said.

Addressing a joint press conference, Swaraj said the Indo-US counter-terrorism cooperation has acquired a new “qualitative edge and purpose”.

“We welcomed the recent designations of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists by the United States. They underscore the international community’s scrutiny over the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which has affected India and the United States alike.

“In the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, we recognised the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack,” she said.

Sitharaman, in her remarks, said India and the US were committed to work together to combat the “persistent threat of terrorism” and other shared security challenges.

The ministers committed to enhance their ongoing cooperation in multilateral fora such as the UN and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and reaffirmed their support for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism, the joint statement said.

“The ministers welcomed the launch of a bilateral dialogue on designation of terrorists in 2017, which is strengthening cooperation and action against terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, D-Company, and their affiliates,” it said.

The two sides further reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing and future cooperation to ensure a stable cyberspace environment and to prevent cyber attacks.

Swaraj said India recognises the value of the Terrorists Designations Dialogue established last year as well as other mechanisms to promote cooperation in counter-terrorism and homeland security.

“We also discussed the situation in South Asia in some detail. India supports President Trump’s South Asia Policy. His call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with us,” she said.

Swaraj said the efforts by India and the US in promoting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan government-controlled reconciliation process were also discussed.

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 17:21 IST

Afghan Taliban announces death of Haqqani network leader

September 4, 2018

The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most effective and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, their affiliates the Afghan Taliban announced Tuesday.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness”, the Taliban said in a statement.

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Jalaluddin Haqqani

Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era”, the Taliban said in a statement posted on Twitter.

During the 1980s the Haqqani figurehead was an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the help of the US and Pakistan.

He gained notoriety for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US congressman Charlie Wilson.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists including Osama Bin Laden who flocked to the region during the war. Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime.

It was not clear when or where he died. At various times in recent years there have been rumours of his death.

Given the already leading role played by his son, it is not clear what Jalaluddin’s demise will mean for the extremist group.

The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since the US invasion.

It is also widely believed to have been behind many of the recent attacks in the capital Kabul that were claimed by the local wing of the Islamic State group.

Long suspected of links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, the Haqqani network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.

Designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.

They were blamed for the truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people — though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

They includes the Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — who were released last year, as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in 2014.

Jalaluddin’s son Sirajuddin was running the group “with major ISI involvement”, a foreign diplomat in Kabul told AFP, referring to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.

“I doubt anything will change,” he said.

AFP

US continues to press Pakistan to “indiscriminately target” all terrorist groups — “The Mission Remain Unchanged”

September 3, 2018

The US continues to press Pakistan to “indiscriminately target” all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network, the Pentagon said on Sunday, claiming that recent reports distorted details of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

The remark comes amid news reports that the US has suspended USD 300 million in military aid to Pakistan as Islamabad was not doing enough to tackle militant groups.

“Unfortunately, recent reporting has distorted the details of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) by stating several things out of context. The suspension of security assistance to Pakistan was announced in January 2018,” Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Kon Faulkner said.

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He said, “The CSF is included in the suspension and it remains in place. This is not a new decision or a new announcement, but an acknowledgement of a July request to reprogram funds before they expire.”

Faulkner said since January, they have consistently engaged with Pakistani military officials at the highest levels, based on both a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security, as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network an LeT, and we continue to call on Pakistan to arrest, expel or bring the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table,” he said.

Faulkner noted that the 2018 DoD Appropriations Act, published on March 23, details USD 500 million was rescinded by the Congress.

Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy, the remaining USD 300 million was reprogrammed by the Department of Defense (DoD) in July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities before the funds expire on September 30, he said.

The department is awaiting congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied.

“The DoD will have a congressional response before September 30, 2018, to allow the DoD to implement the reprogramming actions,” the spokesman said.

Fresh news reports about suspension of the CSF is expected to further strain US-Pak relationship, which comes ahead of the Islamabad visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The top American diplomat is expected to raise issues related to counter terrorism during his meetings with the top Pakistani leaders.

Pakistan has dismissed all such reports about suspension in US aid, arguing that the United States owed the money to it for expenses incurred on fighting terrorism.

“It is not a cut in any [US] aid, it is not assistance. This is our own money which we have used for improving regional security situation and they had to reimburse it to us,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad.

https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/us-continues-to-press-pakistan-to-indiscriminately-target-terror-groups-2908941.html

U.S. Freezes Military Aid to Pakistan, Citing Inadequate Action Against Militants

September 3, 2018

Withdrawal of $300 million comes before a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad

Pakistani army soldiers patrolled Karachi last month.
Pakistani army soldiers patrolled Karachi last month. PHOTO: AKHTAR SOOMRO/REUTERS
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WASHINGTON—The Pentagon said it suspended $300 million in military aid to Pakistan, accusing it of not doing enough to tackle militant groups, in a move certain to heighten tensions between the two countries ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit this week to Islamabad.

The Trump administration made the decision to suspend the Coalition Support Fund earlier this year before a Sept. 30 deadline and the Pentagon confirmed the decision this weekend. The Pentagon said the U.S. military made the decision “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia strategy.” The funds were instead allocated to other “urgent priorities,” the statement said.

The Coalition Support Fund is intended to reimburse the Pakistani military for counterterrorism efforts. But the Trump administration says Pakistan is offering sanctuary to terror groups threatening Afghanistan’s security.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network and [Lashkar-e-Taiba] in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner said in a statement, referring to military groups active in Pakistan.

Mr. Pompeo already faced a frosty reception in Islamabad, particularly after he said in July the International Monetary Fund shouldn’t extend a financial bail-out to Pakistan, in part, because it would help pay off Chinese loans to Pakistan. In a January tweet, Mr. Trump said the U.S. had “foolishly given” Pakistan $33 billon the past 15 years in return for “lies & deceit.”

Among the issues Mr. Pompeo is expected to raise on his visit is counterterrorism in the region.

Pakistan faces a growing fiscal and balance-of-payments crisis and will almost certainly need a bailout from one or more countries and international financial institutions. The country has received more than a dozen past bailouts from the IMF.

Pakistani President Imran Khan has called for a new, “mutually beneficial,” relationship with the U.S. that breaks with the antiterrorism partnership dating to 2001.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-freezes-military-aid-to-pakistan-citing-inadequate-action-on-militants-1535925068

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US military to cut $300 million in aid to Pakistan

September 2, 2018

The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties.

The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.”

© Arif Ali, AFP | Pakistani activists with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group protest in Lahore on January 2, 2018 against Trump’s threat to cut aid over “lies” about militancy

 

The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

But U.S. officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behavior.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer – if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a U.S. official told Reuters.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by U.S.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”

Experts on the Afghan conflict, America’s longest war, argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents in Afghanistan a place to plot deadly strikes and regroup after ground offensives.

Increasing pressure

The Pentagon’s decision showed that the United States, which has sought to change Pakistani behavior, is still  increasing pressure on Pakistan’s security apparatus.

It also underscored that Islamabad has yet to deliver the kind of change sought by Washington.

“It is a calibrated, incremental ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan,” said Sameer Lalwani, co-director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Reuters reported in August that the Trump administration has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.

The Pentagon made similar determinations on CSF in the past but this year’s move could get more attention from Islamabad, and its new prime minister, Imran Khan, at a time when its economy is struggling.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plummeted over the past year and it will soon decide on whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or friendly nations such as China.

“They are squeezing them when they know that they’re vulnerable and it is probably a signal about what to expect should Pakistan come to the IMF for a loan,” Lalwani said. The United States has the largest share of votes at the IMF.

Khan, who once suggested he might order the shooting down of U.S. drones if they entered Pakistani airspace, has opposed the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan. In his victory speech, he said he wanted “mutually beneficial” relations with Washington.

A Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was unaware of a formal notification of the U.S. decision on assistance but said one was expected by the end of September.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S.  assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF, a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

Pakistan could again be eligible next year for CSF.

(REUTERS)

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US military to cancel $300m in Pakistan aid over terror groups

September 2, 2018

The US military says it is cancelling $300m (£230m) in aid to Pakistan over what it calls Islamabad’s failure to take action against militant groups.

President Donald Trump has previously accused Pakistan of deceiving the US while receiving billions of dollars.

Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Koné Faulkner said the US military would aim to spend the money on other “urgent priorities”.

The move, which needs to be approved by US Congress, is part of a broader suspension announced in January.

BBC News

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The US state department has criticised Pakistan, a key ally, for failing to deal with terrorist networks operating on its soil, including the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Col Faulkner said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the $300m aid – which had earlier been suspended – should be used elsewhere due to “a lack of Pakistani decisive actions” in tackling the issue.

The announcement comes just days before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit Pakistan to meet the country’s new prime minister, Imran Khan.

In January, the US government announced it was cutting almost all security aid to the country.

The US and others have long complained that Pakistan provides a safe haven to militant networks, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan – something that Islamabad denies.

Separately on Friday, the US said it was ending all funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) – which it described as “irredeemably flawed”.

Who are the militants Pakistan is alleged to support?

The Haqqani network is a militant group that focuses most of its activities on neighbouring Afghanistan, which has complained for years that Pakistan allows it to operate unimpeded from its soil across the border.

The group is linked to the Afghan Taliban – a hardline Islamic movement that poses a major threat to the Afghan government. Pakistani Taliban groups, while associated with the Afghan Taliban, focus on attacks within Pakistan.

Both the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban have launched attacks in Afghanistan that have killed US forces, and US officials have long argued that Pakistan, and specifically its ISI intelligence service, provides safe havens to them.

Why would Pakistan support them?

Pakistan has long been accused of using the Afghan Taliban to further its foreign policy interests in the country. The ISI first became involved in funding and training militants in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers take positions near to the supporters of religous group "Tehrik Labayk Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA)" during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, 26 November 2017.
Pakistan and the US are key allies – but ties have frayed in recent months

Although since 2001 Pakistan has allowed its territory to be used to supply international troops during the war in Afghanistan, and co-operated with the West in fighting some terrorists groups like al-Qaeda, analysts say it has continued to give shelter and support to Afghan insurgents.

Its aim has been to limit the influence in Afghanistan of its chief regional rival, India.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-45386278

US cuts Pakistan security funding over terrorism fears

August 4, 2018

The US Congress has slashed security funding to Pakistan by almost two-thirds under an amended defense budget following criticism of its coalition partner’s failure to tackle terror groups thriving in its porous border region with Afghanistan.

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In a $717 billion budget for the coming year, Congress cut funding allocated to Pakistan to fight terrorism from $900 million to $350 million, with some analysts suggesting the figure may be even lower.

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Former Professional Staff Member of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services Anish Goel said: “The legislation reduces the amount of funds provided for reimbursement to Pakistan to $150 million. This is a significant reduction from the $700 million authorized through the Coalition Support Fund last year.”

Dr. Mohammed Faisal told Arab News that the funds should not viewed as aid but “reimbursements to be made to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund” for its logistical and operational support, which a disappointed US has “discontinued.” (ARIF ALI/AFP)

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A US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad told Arab News: “The $150 million in defense funding is dedicated to Pakistan’s border security operations and is a clear sign of our commitment to improved security for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. We hope that Pakistan takes the necessary steps to enable the disbursement of this assistance.”

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If Pakistan demonstrates its ability to secure the Pakistan-Afghan “borders against the threats posed by transnational terrorism,” it will be eligible for US assistance, the spokesman said.

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Under a program to reimburse coalition nations for support provided to US military operations, Pakistan’s fund allocation in 2018 was reduced to $700 million, with half the figure pegged to its action against the deadly Haqqani Network supported by the Afghan Taliban.

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In May, the US Committee on Armed Services House of Representatives raised concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to tackle militant groups its border region with Afghanistan and called for drastic cuts to financial relief provided to Islamabad.

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The dramatic cut in funding is also part of Washington’s South Asia and Afghan policy unveiled last August. Relations between Pakistan and the US have remained frosty since the policy launch.

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Reiterating his earlier comments this week, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammed Faisal told Arab News that the funds should not viewed as aid but “reimbursements to be made to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund” for its logistical and operational support, which a disappointed US has “discontinued.”

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“Our position is very clear that mutual problems can only be addressed through mutual consultations and deeper engagement,” said Faisal.

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The Congress defense budget made clear that Pakistan’s funding of $350 million would remain in place until the secretary of defense was satisfied that Pakistan is taking “demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network.”

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Goel told an Indian newspaper that the budget amendment “gets rid of the certification requirements for Pakistani action against the Haqqani Network, and also gets rid of the authority to reimburse Pakistan for counterterrorism.”

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The US Embassy spokesman said: “The US administration’s position is unchanged. We continue to press Pakistan to target all terrorist groups without discrimination, including the Taliban, Haqqani network and Lashkar e-Tayyaba, and stand ready to work with Pakistan to combat terrorist groups without distinction.”

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The US has increased its efforts to negotiate a permanent truce with the Taliban in hope of ending the Afghan war following a short-lived but successful cease-fire agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban in June and recent talks between US diplomats and representatives of the insurgency.

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Washington believes Pakistan has considerable influence over the Taliban, which the Foreign Office has denied. Experts say the latest move to reduce funding is one of several tactics the US has applied to coerce Islamabad to conform to the Trump administration’s regional policies.

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“This is all to put pressure on Pakistan,” Khaled Mohammed, director-general of Command Eleven, a national security think tank that advises Pakistan’s military.

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“They are trying to get Pakistan to back the US move to make the Taliban lay down their weapons and become a regular part of the (Afghan) government. The Taliban will not do that.”

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Khaled Mohammed said Islamabad will not bargain on America’s behalf because of a “trust deficit” dating back to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

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However, “Pakistan is on the back foot. It could be backlisted by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) over non-compliance to submit a progress report). It could be blacklisted or placed under sanctions by the US. Eventually, Pakistan would find itself in a worse economic position, he said.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1351006/world

Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

July 4, 2018

Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan.

This was agreed during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and discussed measures towards that end. Both also agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

American official Alice Wells meets Gen Bajwa

Amb Wells was on a three-day visit to Pakistan to again seek Pakistani authorities’ help for the Afghan peace process. She met Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

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US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

She also met business leaders and ambassadors from other embassies in Islamabad.

During her visit to Kabul, which preceded the Islamabad trip, Amb Wells said Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She had further accused the “Taliban ….who are not residing in Afghanistan” of being obstacle to the peace talks. She was apparently referring to Pakistan-based Taliban against whom the US has long asked for action.

During her meetings, she reminded her interlocutors of Pakistan’s commitment to take action against all terrorist groups that might be found on its territory. “Ambassador Wells discussed Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminating all terrorist groups present within its borders,” the US embassy said in an apparent reference to the Taliban elements claimed to be present in Pakistan.

The embassy said that Amb Wells’ discussion was consistent with the Trump administration’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy. The strategy announced last year signalled that Washington might take coercive steps to push Pakistan to crack down against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The US strategy for the region had aggravated an already tense bilateral relationship with Pakistan. The two sides have since then been unable to put their ties on an even keel despite an extensive engagement. However, lately both sides took steps that led to hopes of improvement in the relationship. The Pakistan Army last month reaffirmed its commitment to seeing the US exit Afghanistan after winning the protracted war. The US, meanwhile, eliminated Afghanistan-based terrorist Mullah Fazlullah, whose capture or elimination was long demanded by Pakistan.

The ceasefire between Afghan warring factions further raised hopes of a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict. But, things are again turning for worse in Afghanistan where the Taliban resumed fighting immediately after Eid and the Afghan government order resumption of counter-terrorism operations last weekend.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018

For more live updates, follow Dawn.com’s official news Instagram account@dawn.today

https://www.dawn.com/news/1417812/pakistan-us-to-work-towards-peace-in-afghanistan

US-Pakistan Tensions Appear to Be Easing

June 7, 2018

The United States appears to be easing public pressure on Pakistan in a bid to encourage the country to help promote peace and reconciliation with the Taliban to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan.

FILE - Chief of Pakistani Army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 17, 2018.

FILE – Chief of Pakistani Army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 17, 2018.

The optimism, analysts say, stemmed from Wednesday’s rare telephone conversation U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held with Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The two leaders discussed ways to advance bilateral relations, said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. She said “the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without distinction,” was also discussed.

Pakistani officials describe Bajwa’s first direct conversation with Pompeo as “positive and productive.”

Relations between the two uneasy allies in the “war on terrorism” have deteriorated since August when U.S. President Donald Trump announced his South Asia Strategy. The policy blamed Pakistan for not preventing Taliban and members of the terrorist Haqqani network from launching attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad rejected.

While Washington has cut civilian assistance to Pakistan and suspended all military aid in January. Both sides have recently imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats and have had no high-level political contact until Wednesday when Pompeo called Bajwa.

New dialogue

Analysts say the U.S. statement issued after the phone call marked a significant departure from Washington’s traditional stance regarding terrorist groups allegedly running sanctuaries in Pakistan.

“[The] Trump Administration seems to be easing public pressure on Islamabad by not using its standard Pakistan based groups’ accusation and by replacing it with a more general reference to South Asia,” said Talat Hussain, Pakistani television talk show host and columnist.

“The aim appears to be to create more space for a peace process in Afghanistan inclusive of the Haqqanis,” he observed. “This is placing diplomacy above guns and negotiations before fighting.”

Just two days before Pompeo spoke to Bajwa, the Pakistan army offered to use “whatever leverage” Islamabad has to try to get Afghan insurgents to the negotiating table for peacefully terminating the war.

Army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor acknowledged Pakistan’s relations with the United States “are under stress,” but said his country would still like U.S. forces to succeed and go back from Afghanistan “with a notion of victory.”

But Ghafoor said the goal is achievable only through political means, because neither side is in a position to win the war on the battlefield.

“The Afghan Taliban cannot conquer Kabul militarily, but no force can eliminate all of them either to bring peace to Afghanistan. So, there has to be a midway to achieve a political reconciliation acceptable to all sides,” Ghafoor noted.

War on terror

FILE - Youngsters gather at spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 11, 2013.
FILE – Youngsters gather at spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 11, 2013.

“Whatever leverage Pakistan has [over the Taliban], although it is receding with the passage of time, we will try to use it to help find an amicable solution for Afghanistan,” the general noted. “But the Afghan government will have to play the lead role in any such effort, together with America who is the main stakeholder by all means.”

“No one desires more than Pakistan to see peace in Afghanistan. We want the U.S. to go back from Afghanistan with a notion of victory, a notion of success. We don’t want them to leave behind a chaotic Afghanistan like they did before,” the Pakistan military spokesman asserted.

Ghafoor said sustained military-led operations have pushed out or eliminated all terrorist groups on Pakistani soil, including the Haqqani network, and “organized infrastructure” of any terrorist organization. Pakistan has suffered tens of thousands of casualties, including security forces, while countering terrorism, he said.

U.S. officials allege the Haqqanis maintain ties to Pakistan’s spy agency, a charge Islamabad vehemently rejects. The militant network has long been an integral part of the Afghan Taliban. The leader of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is believed to be militarily guiding the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Ghafoor noted his country has secured its traditionally volatile regions along the nearly 2,600 kilometer Afghan border, saying ongoing fencing and construction of new forts will further boost security and prevent illegal cross-border movements and terrorist infiltration.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-pakistantensions-appear-to-be-easing/4428473.html