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US, Afghanistan Still Doubt Pakistan's Commitment in Fight Against Militants

FILE - Insurgents suspected of being from the Haqqani network are presented to the media at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2013.

FILE - Insurgents suspected of being from the Haqqani network are presented to the media at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2013.

The U.S. State Department has recently designated Abdul Aziz Haqqani as a specially designated global terrorist under Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to acts of terrorism. Aziz Haqqani is a senior member of the Haqqani network and brother of the network’s leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The move comes amid deliberations in the U.S. Congress to withhold the last installment of its annual $1 billion aid package to Pakistan as part of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Even though much of the payment for 2015 has been processed, the last payment of about $300 million may be withheld on the basis of Pakistan not doing enough against the Haqqani network, which allegedly has found safe haven inside Pakistan.

The issue of the Haqqani network was at the top of the agenda of U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice when she met with Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership in Islamabad during her visit this week.

Many U.S. and Afghan officials have repeatedly criticized Pakistan for not taking action against the Haqqani network. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, went as far as calling the Haqqani network as the “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The U.S. believes that Pakistan used non-state actors for its own purposes against India and that it has attempted to use Afghan insurgents to try to win influence and some degree of control over Afghanistan, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a public policy research center in Washington.

“It [U.S.] certainly has not seen Pakistan even after the rather horrifying incident in terms of the [attack on a] military school to consistently crack down on terrorists,” he said.

Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, agrees with Cordesman's assessment about Pakistan’s motives for using non-state actors for its interests in the region.

“Pakistan has not done enough in fighting terrorists, especially those that attack inside Afghanistan and those that attack inside India,” Haqqani said.

But Pakistan says it is a willing partner in the war against terrorism and has always insisted that it’s doing everything it can to crack down on terrorism and extremism on its soil. Pakistan claims its military operation in North Waziristan has targeted all militants without discrimination.

The Haqqani Network is one of the deadliest militant groups of the Afghan Taliban.

Most of the Haqqani network's base was destroyed by an army operation that began in the North Waziristan tribal district last year, said Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's advisor to the prime minister on foreign affairs.

"The infrastructure of Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which includes IED factories and a number of other capacities including communications, has been disrupted," Aziz said Monday.

"So what is left here may be very limited compared to the capacity they still have in Afghanistan," he added. "Our assessment is that their capacity in Afghanistan is much bigger, probably 80 to 90 percent compared to what is here, and it is also being cleaned out as a part of our operations."

Afghan peace prospects and Pakistan’s role in it

A sense of optimism was created in Kabul earlier this year when Pakistan was host to the first round of official talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in a resort town near the capital Islamabad.

Many analysts considered the talks a major breakthrough in a process that was stalled for years. Afghan officials had hoped to discuss the issue of a possible cease-fire with the Taliban. However, all those hopes seemed to fade away with a series of deadly attacks in the capital Kabul and around the country in recent months.

Even though Islamabad condemned the attacks in Kabul, which claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and wounded hundreds more, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticized Pakistan and said “we hoped for peace, but received a message of war from the neighboring country.” He added that “key Taliban leaders and commanders still reside inside Pakistan.”

It’s not yet known when and where the second round of peace talks will take place. But on Monday, Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah’s spokesman Javed Faisal told VOA that Pakistan will not be part of the peace process should it restart.

“We do not expect anything from Pakistan, nor do we want Pakistan to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” Faisal said.