US Senator John McCain has issued a stern warning to Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders to act against the Haqqani Network if Islamabad intends to remain a close ally of Washington. Senator McCain’s statement shows that the Trump administration is considering to impose sanctions on Pakistan if Islamabad continues to support Haqqani Network and other terror groups.
Senator McCain, who was in Islamabad recently before flying over to Kabul, said “We have made it very clear that we expect Pakistan will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations.”
“If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation,”he said at a news briefing on Tuesday in Kabul.
According to some Pakistani sources, McCain made the statement even though his delegation was briefed by top military officialsthat Pakistan had severed its links with members of the Haqqani Network. They added that if any militants were found inside Pakistan they would be arrested and prosecuted.
Moreover, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has recently warned Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror groups orchestrating attacks in other countries. Stoltenberg said “It is absolutely unacceptable that a country provides sanctuary to terrorist groups which are responsible for terrorist attacks inside another country.”
Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who now heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, also underlined that despite recent successes, the United States is not winning this war, at least not yet.
A recent Pentagon report describes Pakistan as “the most influential external actor” in Afghanistan that there can neither be peace nor stability in Afghanistan if Islamabad does not support the efforts to do so.
“Militant groups, including Taliban and Haqqani senior leadership, retained safe havens inside Pakistani territory. Sustained Pakistani efforts to disrupt active Haqqani network threats were not observed during the reporting period (Dec 1, 2016, through May 31, 2017),” says the report.
“The United States continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups,” the report adds.
The United States, Mr McCain said, was counting on Pakistan’s support to eliminate militancy, in particular the Haqqani Network.
The Pentagon report, however, also explains why Pakistan continues to support certain militant groups, arguing that concerns about India’s growing influence in Afghanistan prevents Pakistan from playing a positive role in that country.
The Pentagon points out that “Pakistan views the outcome of Afghanistan to be in its vital national interest and thus remains driven by its India-centric regional policy objectives”. And because of this “Afghan-oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani government”.
“Attacks in Afghanistan attributed to Pakistan-based militant networks continue to erode the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship. Militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani network, continued to utilise sanctuaries inside Pakistan,” the report adds.
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