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June 21, 2018

Militant sanctuaries in Pakistan main challenge to Afghan stability: US general

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June 21, 2018

WASHINGTON: President Trump’s nominee to lead allied forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Austin Miller has alleged that the militant sanctuaries in Pakistan are the biggest challenge to fight off terrorism and are also hurdle in achieving stability in Afghanistan.

He maintained that Pakistan could do more in combating terrorist groups. “We should have high expectations that they (Pakistan) are part of the solution, not just diplomatically but from a security standpoint as well,” Miller told lawmakers at a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday. He did acknowledgethat Pakistan has made many sacrifices and its security forces have fought bravely, but then also repeated that “we have not yet seen these counterterrorism efforts against anti-Pakistan militants translate into definitive actions against Afghan Taliban or Haqqani leaders residing in Pakistan.”

Gen. Miller is head of the Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. He was nominated by President Trump to command Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Sharing the focus of military operations he said, this year it was to provide support for secure and credible elections in Afghanistan. “In 2019 and beyond, the improved leadership and increased offensive capability should result in improved battlefield performance to compel” the Taliban into political reconciliation, he said.

Miller also warned against army withdrawal, saying that the situation could become chaotic. “With a precipitous and disorderly withdrawal, we would see negative effects on US national security, he said adding, “I would be concerned about ISIS and al-Qaeda’s ability to emerge.”

The Trump administration has been consistently blaming Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorist outfits. President Trump earlier had approved his administration’s strategy to send 4,000 troops to Afghanistan and act aggressive against the Taliban. The administration also encouraged and welcomed President Ghani’s proposal with the Taliban for a political solution. It also seeks Pakistan’s help to bring the Taliban to table for a political solution in Afghanistan.

APP adds: The commander nominated to take command of Resolute Support Mission on Monday stressed the importance of Pakistan’s cooperation to the success of the South Asia strategy, saying without Islamabad’s support, it would be difficult to achieve long-term stability in Afghanistan.

Replying to a question, he said that since the August 2017 announcement of the South Asia Strategy, there has been incremental positive changes in Pakistan’s behaviour towards Afghanistan, particularly in the effort to improve its bilateral relationship with that country. Saying that they still look for ‘conclusive evidence’ that Pakistan shared the US vision of secure and stable Afghanistan, he said its participation in a peace process would be an indication of progress with which Pakistan can assist.

To a question, he said the US expects from Pakistan to contribute to an end to conflict in Afghanistan by exerting whatever influence it has on the Taliban to lower violence and participate in the peace process. “Improved cooperation in the trade of goods and services and the movement of people will contribute greatly to our goal of stabilising Afghanistan,” he added Gen Miller said that Pakistan’s own stability and prosperity will benefit from peace in Afghanistan. “We seek to partner with Pakistan,” he said while adding that Pakistan has much to gain from supporting the efforts of the 39-member coalition that is working to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

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