WASHINGTON: Pakistan is not putting enough pressure on the Afghan Taliban to make them seek a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan, says the CIA chief as a leaked Nato report claims that the ISI is directly helping these militants. “Obviously, there’s been insufficient pressure on the Haqqani Network, on some of the other elements — again, the allies of Al Qaeda such as the Commander Nazir group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and then some others. And then needless to say, the Afghan Taliban has not been pressured sufficiently in the sanctuaries that it enjoys in Balochistan and in other areas as well,” CIA Director David Petraeus told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“The Taliban’s senior leaders continued to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan,” said Director of National Intelligence Gen James Clapper. The US-led “International Security Assistance Force and the support of Afghanistan’s neighbours, notably and particularly Pakistan, will remain essential to sustain the gains that have been achieved”.
In this Tuesday afternoon congressional hearing, other US intelligence chiefs also pointed out that US interests in the region were “not always congruent” with Pakistan while the committee’s chairperson, Senator Dianne Feinstein, called Pakistan “a huge problem”.
But intelligence chiefs, as well as the lawmakers, also stressed the need for having a “positive relationship” with a “significant nuclear power”, as Senator Feinstein said.
“Pakistan is a very puzzling country. We know that thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists, and we suspect that what Pakistan is doing is trying to essentially walk both sides of the street. I think I and most of us believe that having a positive relationship with Pakistan as a nuclear power, a significant nuclear power, is very important,” observed Senator Feinstein.
“This relationship, which certainly had its low in December, may or may not be improving, how do you assess it at this time?” she asked US intelligence chiefs.
“This is a challenging relationship. Pakistan and our interests are not always congruent. Their existential threat continues to be India. They have also paid a huge price because of the militancy that they have had in their country and have suffered literally thousands of casualties in that context,” said Gen Clapper.
“So sometimes our interests converge, and sometimes they differ. But as I would characterise the relationship, it’s crucial that we have one and have a positive relationship, even though we’ve gone through some trying times.”
Gen Petraeus, while responding to the question, also mentioned the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the travel ban on Husain Haqqani.
“It’s worth noting, by the way, that the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, ambassador Haqqani, was allowed to leave, and he did arrive in the UAE,” he said.
He noted that a parliamentary committee in Pakistan was reviewing US-Pakistan relations after the Nov 26 attack on two Pakistani military posts.“I think there’s an awareness there as well that this is a critically important relationship, that there are areas of considerable mutual concern, mutual objectives, while there are also ones in which there are diverging interests,” the CIA chief said.
“Their activities right now are also complicated, though, because of the difficulties in the domestic context there, where there’s a bit of tension between the Supreme Court, between the army chief and the ISI director and the government, the president and the prime minister,” he noted.
But those tensions “may be calming a bit. There have been signs of that in recent days”, he added.
“Nonetheless, the situation ... is fraught, and it is going to take some time. It’s going to take a lot of diplomacy, engagement and so forth to move forward in a relationship that’s important to both our countries.”
Gen Petraeus also said that the relationship between the intelligence services of two countries was generally “still productive” and “there is certainly good communication going back and forth, and there have been some pursuit of important mutual objectives between the two services”.