Pakistan has failed to stop terrorists crossing its borders into Afghanistan, even as it has made progress against those who attack inside the country, the top U.S. general in the region said.
“The Pakistanis have been engaged in a very tough fight against extremism inside their own country,” Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Tuesday. “They did displace many of those terrorists who were fighting their own government. But at the same time, we’ve seen the ones who weren’t displaced were the Afghan Taliban” and the affiliated Haqqani network, he said.
President Donald Trump announced a new regional strategy in August intended to force the Taliban to the negotiating table by boosting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, increasing the training of Afghan forces and pilots, strengthening the Afghan government and prodding Pakistan to do more or face a cutoff in U.S. financial aid. “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” said Trump, whose strategy also aims to strengthen ties with India, Pakistan’s traditional adversary.
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Pakistan’s civilian government and military reacted angrily to Trump’s statements, saying the U.S. has failed to recognize its efforts to combat terrorism, pointing to thousands of its troops that have died in operations over more than a decade.
Nicholson, speaking by video conference from Afghanistan, said “big problems remain,” citing periodic cross-bordering shelling by the Pakistani military in pursuit of terrorist groups. “This has, unfortunately, displaced hundreds of Afghan civilians from villages in close proximity to the border,” so “the relations are strained right now,” he said.
He said Pakistani leaders have come to Kabul to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and “they identified certain steps that they were going to take.” The general added: “We’ve not yet seen those steps play out.”
Every recent U.S. defense secretary since Robert Gates has visited Pakistan seeking improved relationships and greater cooperation stemming cross-border sanctuaries after the Obama administration announced an “AF-Pak” strategy in 2009 linking success in Afghanistan with Pakistan.
Eight years later, the efforts continued with the August announcement. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has yet to visit Pakistan.