ISLAMABAD, May 12, 2014 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) — by Muhammad Tahir
The United States is exerting more pressure on Pakistan to act against Taliban militants in the country’s tribal regions and to help stop cross-border attacks that could lead to instability in Afghanistan after the pullout of U.S.-led NATO forces from the country within in the next few months.
The U.S. believes the Taliban militants and al-Qaida remnants are using Pakistan’s tribal areas in planning cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
Washington has sent some of its top military leaders and diplomats to Pakistan over the past few weeks to urge the country’ s leaders to go after the armed groups in the restive border regions.
William J. Burns, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, who wrapped up his visit to Pakistan late last week, urged Pakistani leaders to dismantle what he called “safe heavens” in the tribal regions and stop attacks into neighbor countries from Pakistani soil.
“We support the Prime Minister’s efforts to reestablish authority over all Pakistani territory in whatever way Pakistan deems appropriate, and especially urge him to sustain pressure on militant groups, deny them a safe-haven, and prevent cross-border attacks,” William Burns said in a statement issued at the conclusion of his visit to Islamabad on May 9.
According to the statement, Burns has told Pakistani leaders that countering cross-border attacks and shutting down the Taliban safe havens are critical not only for Pakistan’s long-term peace and prosperity but also for positive relations between Pakistan and all its neighbors, including Afghanistan.
The statement from the senior U.S. diplomat, who met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Army Gen. Raheel Sharif, is a clear message to Pakistan to establish firm control over all of its volatile border regions to stop the militants from crossing into Afghanistan.
The porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan runs some 2, 500 km and despite deployment of thousands of troops by both countries, militants continue to nomad crossing the border through rugged mountains and launch attacks inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan has repeatedly suggested fencing of the border but the Afghan government stayed reserved on the idea, saying that the move will divide the Pushton ethnic group accommodates across border.
As concerns are fast growing about the possible intensification of fighting in Afghanistan in the coming weeks as the Taliban have announced their “spring offensive”, against foreign and Afghan forces, the U.S. is asking Pakistani leaders to stop militants from crossing into the neighboring country.
Washington is hardly keen to see a destabilized Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government routinely claims that Pakistan is helping and sheltering Afghan Taliban.
The Afghan side suspects that Pakistani militants will seek a new battle field in Afghanistan, as the Pakistani Taliban are involved in peace talks with the government.
A week earlier before Burn’s trip, Gen. Lloyd Austin, Commander U.S. Central Command, also visited Pakistan and met with Gen. Raheel Sharif, chief of the Pakistani Army.
The two commanders reportedly discussed security issues and the post-NATO Afghanistan.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins also met with top Pakistani civilian and military leaders during his three-day visit last month. Dobbins told a Congressional Committee this month that “Pakistan was not taking appropriate measures to curb terrorism in the country as the religious seminaries in the tribal regions and Balochistan, in southwestern border province, were the cause of attacks inside Afghanistan and India.”
The U.S. also wants Pakistan to encourage the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiation table to find out a political solution ahead of the NATO withdrawal.
The U.S. and Afghanistan believe Pakistan has influence on the Afghan Taliban and it can do a lot in the reconciliation process.