Pakistan's conviction that militant groups are strategically useful to counter India are not only hampering the fight against terrorism but also helping al-Qaeda sustain its safe haven, says the US intelligence community.
"Islamabad's strategic approach risks helping al-Qaeda sustain its
safe haven because some groups supported by Pakistan provide assistance to al-Qaeda," Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
"Islamabad's conviction that militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages will continue to limit Pakistan's incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism," he said giving the intelligence community's Annual Threat Assessment.
Thus "despite robust Pakistani military operations against extremists that directly challenge Pakistani government authority, Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Pakistani militant groups continue to use Pakistan as a safehaven for organizing, training, and planning attacks against the United States and our allies in Afghanistan, India, and Europe," Blair said.
Islamabad has demonstrated determination and persistence in combating militants it perceives dangerous to Pakistan's interests, particularly those involved in attacks in the settled areas, including FATA-based Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda and other associated operatives in the settled areas, he said.
"However, it still judges it does not need to confront groups that do not threaten it directly and maintains historical support to the Taliban," Blair said providing the assessment reflecting the views of 16 intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"Pakistan has not consistently pursued militant actors focused on Afghanistan, although Pakistani operations against TTP and similar groups have sometimes temporarily disrupted al-Qaeda," he said.
"Simultaneously, Islamabad has maintained relationships with other Taliban-associated groups that support and conduct operations against US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces in Afghanistan," Blair said. "It has continued to provide support to its militant proxies, such as Haqqani Taliban, Gul Bahadur group, and Commander Nazir group."
The al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani militant safe haven in Quetta, Blair said "will continue to enable the Afghan insurgents and al-Qaeda to plan operations, direct propaganda, recruiting and training activities, and fundraising activities with relative impunity."
Noting that Substantially reducing the ability of insurgents to operate in Pakistan would not, by itself, end the insurgency in Afghanistan, he said:
"Pakistan safe haven is an important Taliban strength, and unless it is greatly diminished, the Taliban insurgency can survive defeats in Afghanistan."
Pakistan-based militant groups and al-Qaeda are also "coordinating their attacks inside Pakistan despite their historical differences regarding ethnicity, sectarian differences, and strategic priorities," Blair said.
"This tactical coordination across militant networks probably is increasing and is an important factor in the increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan," he said.
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