WASHINGTON - Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of the U.S-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Islamabad has yet to take action against the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan where the group’s “senior leadership still resides.”
“As you have heard our president say, as you have heard all of our senior leaders say, we have got to see movement on this reduction of sanctuary and support for those insurgents and terrorists operating from Pakistan who are attacking our forces and our coalition diplomats and forces, as well as the Afghans inside this country,” Nicholson said Tuesday, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies allegations
Announcing his South Asia strategy in August, President Donald Trump demanded Pakistan stop providing support and sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban group. He blamed Pakistan for “housing” terrorist groups that are fighting Afghan and American forces in Afghanistan, and vowed not to be “silent about Pakistan’s safe havens” for the Taliban, and other militant groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.
Pakistan has denied the allegations that it provides safe havens to the Taliban and maintains that the country has been a victim of terrorism and militancy itself.
Nicholson said the Pakistanis have been engaged in a “tough fight” against extremists in their own country and many of the Pakistani Taliban fighters have been displaced by Pakistani military offensives, but he said the Pakistani military has failed to take similar action against the Afghan militant groups on its soil.
“The ones who were not displaced were the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network who continue to reside on that side of the border,” Nicholson added.
The Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, is considered the most lethal terrorist group in Afghanistan and has been blamed for some of the deadliest terror attacks, including attacks on embassies in Kabul, different Afghan government institutions, and U.S. military bases across the country.
General Nicholson said Islamabad needs to act against the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.
“The offensive operations against sanctuaries would be in other areas that we have identified with the Pakistani leadership on a number of occasions,” Nicholson said.
When asked if the international coalition has seen any significant change in Pakistan cracking down on militants crossing into Afghanistan, Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon, “We are hoping to see those changes, we are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing the border.
“We have not seen those changes implemented yet,” he added.
Target Taliban safe havens
In a recent interview with VOA, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells urged Islamabad to take action against Afghan Taliban safe havens.
“We would like to see the same commitment that Pakistan brought in 2014 to the fight against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; that same strategic commitment to the other militant proxy groups who take advantage of Pakistan territory,” Wells told VOA.