US expert urges more pressure, punitive action against Pakistan to resolve Afghanistan issue
A top US think tank has recommended publicly naming Pakistan-based terrorists and their groups to shame their host and the release of intelligence on their location as part of measures to be adopted if the Trump administration wants to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) further suggests stripping Pakistan of its status as a non-NATO ally of the US, which comes with significant military benefits, and even declaring it a terrorist state, an old demand.
“If Washington is serious about ending the war in Afghanistan – including through a peace settlement – it needs to put significant pressure on the Taliban and Haqqani Network in Pakistan, not just in Afghanistan,” Seth G Jones, a former defence department official who served in Afghanistan and now heads the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, writes.
The report, The insurgent sanctuary in Pakistan, comes at a time when the Trump administration appears to be holding out to Pakistan an offer of a fresh start with secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Islamabad that followed months of unrestrained public bashing — including an accusation of “lies and deceit” by President Donald Trump — and denial of security aid.
Despite mounting pressure from the US, a key provider of financial aid and guarantor of largesse from global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan continues to not take “decisive action” against terrorists and has claimed it has pushed the Afghan Taliban back into Afghanistan. It has also alleged Afghanistan is sheltering terrorist groups targeting Pakistan.
The report says the Afghan Taliban’s entire leadership is based in Pakistan – the top shura or council of senior-most decision-makers, its second-tier organisational formations and their members, and the regional shuras in Peshawar, Quetta and Waziristan.
Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, his deputies Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mohammad Yaqub, and senior leaders Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Ahmadullah Nanai, Abdul Latif Mansur and Noor Mohammad Saqib are among those based in Pakistan, according to the report.
Citing interviews with Western government official, Jones argues “the Pakistan government – especially the ISI – has provided several types of assistance. It has given money, intelligence and strategic guidance to the Taliban and Haqqani Network and has helped provide medical care for Taliban fighters.”
The report concedes the Pakistani military has taken some action against terrorists and militants based in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan but not carried out sustained operation against their network in Balochistan.
“The US needs to re-think its strategy toward Pakistan,” Jones writes, and recommends a set of punitive measures on an “escalatory ladder”.
“Provide more public transparency about Pakistan activities,” he argues. Name the Taliban and Haqqani leaders living in Pakistan and declassify “intelligence including satellite imagery – of Taliban locations in Pakistan”.
Other steps are finding and targeting Taliban leaders in Pakistan and those of al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other groups, continuing the freeze on security aid (the Trump administration has already suspended $2 billion), suspension or termination of its non-NATO ally status and preventing Pakistan’s access to multilateral financial lenders.
Jones also recommends declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism. “After all, US and other Western intelligence agencies have collected an abundance of information about Pakistan ties to terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and India, from Lashkar-e-Taiba (or Jamaat-ud-Dawah) to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network.”