GENERAL JOSEPH L. VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND has said that the U.S. maintains consistent diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to take appropriate steps to deny safe haven to terrorists and work to improve the security of the tumultuous Af-Pak border region because twenty U.S-designated terrorist organizations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region and seven of them are in Pakistan. So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan. To date, the Pakistan military and security services have not taken lasting actions against Haqqani network , a component of Taliban.
He expressed these views in his testimony before the US SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE on “THE POSTURE OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND,” yesterday
He further said “Influence of external actors – Stability in Afghanistan is further challenged by the malign influence of external actors. The enablement of violent extremist groups operating inside of Afghanistan and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, receiving sanctuary or support from outside governments, is of particular concern. So long as these elements remain, they will threaten our hard-earned gains and regional stability writ large.
“Pakistan’s shared border with Afghanistan remains a safe haven for terrorist and violent extremist elements. There are 20 U.S.-designated terrorist organizations present today in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban serves as a facilitator to some of these groups’ operations. The death of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. strike on 21 May 2016 had a disruptive impact on the Taliban and gave a psychological boost to the Afghans. However, the group still presents a formidable threat to stability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (Af-Pak) sub-region. The convergence of these groups and, in particular, the convergence of the Afghan Taliban and its component, the Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, is of particular concern given the direct threat posed to U.S. and Coalition personnel and the Afghan government. Key to improving the security environment in Afghanistan is eliminating sanctuary of militant groups in Pakistan’s territory. The U.S. maintains consistent diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to take appropriate steps to deny safe haven and work to improve the security of the tumultuous Af-Pak border region.
“Pakistan remains a critical partner in the counter-terrorism fight. Twenty U.S-designated terrorist organizations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region; seven of the 20 organizations are in Pakistan. So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan. Of particular concern to us is the Haqqani Network (HQN) which poses the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan. To date, the Pakistan military and security services have not taken lasting actions against HQN. We have consistently called upon the Pakistanis to take the necessary actions to deny terrorists safe haven and improve security in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. We have seen some promising coordination between the Pakistan and Afghanistan militaries aimed at addressing instability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The Pakistan military in particular continues to conduct counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the FATA and facilitate, via ground and air lines of communication, the sustainment of coalition operations in Afghanistan.
“This past year we became increasingly concerned about the growing threat posed by the ISIS affiliate, Daesh Khorasan (IS-K). Although their operational capacity has diminished as a result of U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan military operations, we remain focused on defeating the group in both countries. Of note, we were encouraged to see the Pakistani military plan and execute a recent named operation in which they set up simultaneous multiple blocking positions.”