General David Petraeus. — AP Photo

WASHINGTON: CIA Director General David Petraeus has told a congressional committee that he believes Afghan forces should not enter Pakistan to destroy the sanctuaries that the Taliban leaders allegedly enjoyed in that country.

“With respect should the Afghan forces be allowed to go, well, I think that’s obviously a question for Afghanistan, but I think they probably have sufficient fights on their hands without invading the soil of another country, even as significant as is the threat that is posed by some of these safe havens across the border,” he said.

Gen Petraeus also told the committee that the United States should further develop a northern transit route to supply US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

He told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the United States and Russia were already cooperating with each other on this issue.

“Another example actually of cooperative endeavour is the northern distribution network that supplies Afghanistan through the north — one of the ways of that transits Russian soil. It’s very important, especially as Pakistan has closed the Nato groundlines of communication that run through Pakistan,” he said.

During a discussion on Pakistan’s role in the Afghan dispute, Director of National Intelligence Gen James Clapper claimed that senior Taliban leaders continued to enjoy a safe haven in Pakistan.

“And the support of Afghanistan’s neighbours — notably and particularly Pakistan — will reign essential to sustain the gains” that the US-led forces had made in that country.

Congresswoman Jan Shakowsky, who probed the possibility of allowing Afghan forces to enter Pakistan to destroy alleged safe havens, asked Gen Petraeus if he anticipated any change in the status of the sanctuary that the insurgency found in Pakistan.

“Can we reasonably expect that the Afghan forces will be able to defend against an insurgency that enjoys its safe haven once we draw down our troops?” she asked.

“Well, first of all, there’s no question that there are elements in Pakistan that have enjoyed sanctuary and that cause major problems for Afghanistan and for the Afghan and coalition forces that are seeking to provide security to enable the development of the new Afghanistan,” Gen Petraeus responded.

“Having said that, there’s also no question but that our Pakistani partners have confronted a number of the extremist organisations there, foremost among those Al Qaeda — and that cooperation does continue in various form — but also the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and, again, a number of its affiliates,” he added.

He pointed out that Pakistan had recently arrested some prominent Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

“But I think we should be cautious in what we anticipate in terms of the ability of our Pakistani partners and in some cases the willingness to go after again the Haqqani network in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Afghan Taliban down in Balochistan,” he said. “The thought that they will go in and go after them is probably overly optimistic.”

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