Washington: The US should review its options for dealing with Pakistan, including taking unilateral actions against “terrorist safe havens” in the country, if it does not cease its support to the militant outfits attacking neighbours like India, eminent experts told American lawmakers.
Seth G Jones, director International Security and Defence Policy Centre RAND Corporation, in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Congress has reduced its military assistance to Pakistan in recent years and curtailed Pakistan`s access to foreign military financing.
“But even today’s reduced amounts of US assistance could be cut further,” he said, adding that targeted economic sanctions could be selectively applied against specific organisations and individuals. Washington could encourage other countries to consider similar steps. “The United States should review its options for dealing with Pakistan. For example, the United States could take further steps to pressure Taliban sanctuaries within Pakistan, with or without the support of Islamabad,” he said.
Washington could sketch out a vision of an improved relationship with Pakistan if Islamabad cuts its ties with militant groups attacking both Afghanistan and India, Jones said. “This outcome would be highly desirable for broader American interests, given Pakistan`s central role in the stability of the entire region and its ability to upend that stability,” he said.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow at the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy Programme at the Brookings Institution, said Pakistan’s unwillingness to cease its support for the Taliban also reflects its uncertainties and internal limitations.
“More than a decade after 9/11, Pakistan’s military- intelligence establishment remains preoccupied with India’s ascendance at a time of Pakistan’s own stagnation and atrophy. Afghanistan has repeatedly been a prime theatre for Indian and Pakistani rivalries,” Brown said.
Fearing encirclement by India, Pakistan has been greatly reluctant to suppress Afghan militant groups using Pakistan for sanctuary, he said. “Pakistan’s continuing support for these groups, despite pressure from the United States and NATO, reflects the persistent view of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment that the jihadi groups are critical assets in preventing threats on Pakistan’s western flank from an India- friendly regime in Kabul and in securing access to Central Asia’s trade routes,” the expert said.
Bill Roggio, editor, Long War Journal, Foundation For Defence Of Democracies said that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a “dangerous jihadist group” that is backed by Pakistan`s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. “The LeT is known to operate training camps in Afghanistan and attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in 2014…The US has also listed several senior LeT operatives, including Hafiz Saeed, the group`s emir, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” he said. Roggio said the Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country.