04 Oct 2017/Wednesday
The Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford has accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, of having ties with terrorists. “I think it’s clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” US Secretary of Defense James Mattis echoed Dunford’s stance stating that the agency is pursuing its own agenda while Pakistan itself struggles to fight terrorism. “They have lost probably more troops than any other single country in the fight against terrorism – at the same time we’ve seen havens left to the terrorists’ own devices. We’ve seen the government of Pakistan come down on terrorists, when the ISI appears to run its own policy,” Mattis said. “Pakistan often gives safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said, adding that the country had “much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined Trump, threatening to cut US aid to the country unless Islamabad stops its alleged support for terrorists.
It is seen that White House’s tougher line on Pakistan has started affecting high-level diplomacy. It is reported that Islamabad asked Alice Wells, a top South Asia official at the State Department, to indefinitely postpone a planned visit to Pakistan. Also, Pakistan’s foreign minister, who had been scheduled to visit Washington, is now going to China, Russia and Turkey instead, the three countries with close or newly growing ties with Pakistan.
There are enough proofs that Pakistan is a haven for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). It gives aid to the Taliban, which includes soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban’s virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support. Pakistan is home to approx 50 terrorist camps and many Kashmiri groups also maintain their headquarters in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which is cited as further proof by the Indian Government. JKLF has openly admitted that more than 3,000 militants from various nationalities are still being trained.
However, it will be interesting to see if US who is now echoing sentiments of India and Afghanistan’s (Pak neighbors, who have long suffered at the hands of Pakistan’s doctored militancy), is able to compel Pakistan to sever its ties to Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network. With the developing situation it appears that in case Pakistan fails to undertake a series of counterterrorism measures within a certain space of time the following possibilities cannot be over ruled:
-Drone strikes in Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provinces, where militant leaders are harbored.
– Placing of more sanctions and travel bans on Pakistani officials with known ties to terror.
– Launching broader air strikes on terrorist facilities.
– Or even designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror.