ISLAMABAD: The United States has admitted to having witnessed disruption in cross-border movement of Afghan Taliban, the Senate’s foreign affairs committee was told on Tuesday.
“The Americans have told us that they could see early signs of Taliban experiencing temporary disruption in movements across the border. They have seen that happen,” Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said while briefing the committee’s members on recent interactions with the US officials.
It is a rare acknowledgement that Pakistan’s counterterrorism actions and border control measures along the border with Afghanistan were helping check unauthorised movement of militants that have long been linked to terrorism. Pakistan has often been criticised by the US for not eliminating Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries on its soil.
Pakistan is erecting a 12-foot-high fence along its largely porous 2,611-kilometre-long border with Afghanistan. Additionally, new forts and outposts on mountain peaks are being established and 73 new wings of the Frontier Corps are being raised to man the border. The project is expected to be completed in two years.
Officials contend that the border management plan, once in place, would prevent unauthorised cross-border movement of people through 76 notified and unofficial routes. The crossing points are planned to be limited to 16.
Strict border control measures have, meanwhile, been enforced at two of the crossings — Torkham and Chaman. The same measures are set to be enforced at the Ghulam Khan crossing by December.
Three other crossings are currently planned to have similar arrangements. The Afghan government opposes the border management plan.
In response to a question, Secretary Janjua told the committee that one of the five working groups formed during Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Afghanistan last month was on border management. She said the US supported the project.
The secretary repeated the denial that bases of the Taliban and Haqqani network existed on Pakistani soil. She said the US had been asked to provide “actionable intelligence” about any such sanctuaries.
Hours after the secretary’s testimony before the Senate committee, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists in Brussels that terrorist safe havens in Pakistan posed a challenge to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
“We have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times. It is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists,” Stoltenberg said.
Role for India
Ms Janjua told the committee that Pakistan was opposed to any role for India in Afghanistan even if it was limited to economic matters.
“Even from the point of economic role, if anyone would send money in Afghanistan, he will obviously gain political influence there,” she said while explaining Pakistan’s position on the greater role the US was envisaging for India in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has already conveyed to the US its opposition to such plans.
“The role given to India is not acceptable to Pakistan because India does not have benign presence there. Indians have demonstrated interference and sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan through Afghanistan,” the secretary maintained.
Speaking at a meeting of the Track-II dialogue on Monday, US Ambassador David Hale had said that India was being encouraged to do more to support Afghanistan economically.
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2017