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Pakistani ministers reject US general’s accusations

A top US general’s accusation that the Afghan Taliban leadership is based in Peshawar and Quetta has been rejected by Pakistan, which said the militants were using bases in Afghanistan for their attacks.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2017 08:07 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan-US relations,US President Donald Trump,Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan
US Army Gen John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support forces and US forces in Afghanistan, speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, in April 2017. (Reuters)

Top Pakistani ministers have rejected a US general’s assertion that the Afghan Taliban leadership is based in Peshawar and Quetta, saying the militants were using neighbouring Afghanistan as the launch pad for their operations.

Gen John W Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Afghan media outlet Tolo News that Washington was aware of the Afghan Taliban leadership’s presence in the Pakistani cities.

This issue is “being addressed in private” by the US and Pakistani governments and “support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped”, he was quoted as saying by Tolo News.

Pakistan interior minister Ahsan Iqbal responded to Nicholson’s accusations by telling Dawn newspaper that the Taliban were using Afghanistan as their launch pad. He said the Taliban had no need to hide in Pakistan since they held more than 40% of Afghanistan.

“If they have control over so much land and resources in Afghanistan, it means they have hideouts there, not in Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistani authorities had been conducting comprehensive security operations in different parts of the country for four years and had cleared a large area, including North Waziristan tribal region, Iqbal said.

Foreign minister Khawaja Asif said the US should refrain from blaming Pakistan for its 16 years of failures in Afghanistan. Asif, who put off a planned visit to Washington following President Donald Trump’s criticism of Pakistan’s counter-terror efforts, said more than 90% of attacks in Pakistan were carried out from Afghanistan.

“America used Pakistan as its ally, but Pakistan suffered unbearable losses in the war on terror. If the US doesn’t trust Pakistan, it should make preparations to repatriate the Afghan refugees Pakistan has been hosting for nearly 35 years,” he told Geo News.

“We want to clear misunderstandings with the US by maintaining this relationship,” Asif said. Peace in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan, which was why Islamabad is helping Washington in trying to find a solution to the Afghan issue, he added.

In a related development, Pakistan has postponed a visit by a top US diplomat who had been due to arrive in Islamabad on Monday, days after Trump rebuked the country for providing safe havens to terrorist groups.

Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs and acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was set to be the first major US official to visit Pakistan since Trump’s comments.

Her visit was put off by Pakistan “until a mutually convenient time”, with the Foreign Office giving no reason for the decision.

Official sources said Pakistan is still evolving a response to the US accusations and it would be “premature” to interact with the senior US official at this time.

The state department confirmed Wells’ trip had been postponed at the Pakistan government’s “request” but it too did not give details.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 20:20 IST