McCain calls for support of Pakistan to eliminate militancy in Afghanistan

Published July 5, 2017
US Senator John McCain addressing a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday.—AFP
US Senator John McCain addressing a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday.—AFP

KABUL: The United States is counting on Pakistan’s support to eliminate militancy, in particular the Haqqani network, Senator John McCain said during a visit to the Afghan capital on Tuesday.

“We have made it very clear that we expect they (Pakistan) will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations,” said McCain, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, in Kabul.

“If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation,” he insisted.

Says US may have to change ‘behaviour towards Pakistani nation’

The senator’s statement came one day after he led a bipartisan Senate delegation to Islamabad, where Pakistani officials said he had reaffirmed the country’s role in regional stability.

The senators’ visit to Islamabad and Kabul comes at a time when the US is gearing up to send more troops to Afghanistan to support Afghan forces straining to beat back the resurgent Taliban.

McCain called for more than just troops, however, urging “a strategy to win” a war that has dragged on for 16 years and which even US generals concede is at a “stalemate”.

“The strongest nation on Earth in this world should be able to win this conflict,” he said, calling for diplomatic efforts alongside a military push.

The US currently has 8,400 troops deployed under the Nato banner, and is thought to be mulling sending up to 4,000 more.

Defence Secretary James Mattis has stressed his new approach, due to be presented to President Donald Trump later this month, will have a broader “regional” emphasis, with no set timetable.

Trump has remained remarkably taciturn on Afghanistan, but this month gave Mattis authority to set troop numbers at whatever level he saw fit.

Nato, whose Operation Resolute Support numbers some 13,500, including the Americans, also promised last week to enhance its presence in Afghanistan.

Recent Taliban gains have shaken confidence in Afghanistan’s future and talk of sending Nato troops in has stoked fears the alliance could get sucked back into an unwinnable war.

But Mattis refused recently to “put timelines” on the conflict.

“The bottom line is that Nato has made a commitment to Afghanistan for freedom from fear and terror... You can’t let this be undone,” he said in Brussels last week.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017

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