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September 21, 2018

Pakistan not restricting Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network: US


September 21, 2018

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Wednesday said that Islamabad pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network (HQN) from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Launching the annual country report on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism for the year 2017, the department maintained that Afghanistan continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups. “A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan,” the report alleged.

It underscored that while terrorist-related violence in Pakistan is down from levels prior to 2014, when Pakistan began its military operations in Fata, the country continued to suffer significant terrorist attacks, particularly against vulnerable civilian and government targets.

The report said that the Pakistani military and security forces undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan, such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and also commended that such operations in the Fata area seriously degraded al-Qaeda’s presence in the region and the group’s freedom to operate. However, it said that “remnants of AQ’s global leadership as well as its regional affiliate al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate from remote locations in the region that historically have been exploited as safe havens.”

It also said that Afghan national defence and security forces retained full responsibility for security in Afghanistan. In partnership, the ANDSF and coalition forces took aggressive action against terrorist elements across Afghanistan, including against ISIS's formal branch in the region, Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

In the South Asia section, the report further alleges that Pakistan did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad in 2017, which continued to operate, train, organise and fundraise in Pakistan. “Pakistan detained Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT and its front organisation Jamaatud Dawa in January 2017, but a Pakistani court ordered Hafiz Saeed released from house arrest in November 2017.

Countering the financing of terrorism, it mentioned that Pakistan was a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a financial action task force (FATF)-style regional body. “Pakistan criminalises terrorist financing through the ATA, but implementation remains uneven,” it said.

India continued to experience attacks, including by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations as well as tribal and Maoist insurgents, the report said, “Indian authorities blamed Pakistan for cross-border attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the course of 2017, the government of India sought to deepen counterterrorism cooperation and information sharing with the United States, including through the first-ever designations dialogue, held in Delhi in December.”

The report mentioned that counterterrorism cooperation between India and the United States increased in 2017. The two pledged to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups, including al-Qaeda (AQ), ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and D-company.

It further said that “The Taliban, the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and groups claiming affiliation with the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) increased high-profile terrorist attacks targeting Afghan government officials and members of the international community. Terrorist groups targeting Pakistan, such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, exploit ungoverned spaces in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, using them as safe havens to coordinate terrorist attacks inside Pakistan."

“The Pakistani government and military continued high-profile efforts to disrupt terrorist attacks and eliminate anti-state militants. Progress, however, remained slow on the government’s efforts to implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and enforce anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls,” the report said.

FATF continued to note concern that Pakistan’s outstanding gaps in the implementation of the UN Security Council ISIL (Daesh) and al-Qaeda sanctions regime have not been resolved, and that UN-listed entities -- including LeT and its affiliates-- were not effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan, nor being denied financial services, the report claimed saying that Pakistan’s laws technically comply with international anti-money laundering/ countering the financing of terrorism standards, “authorities failed to uniformly implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and individuals such as LeT and its affiliates, which continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds.”

The total number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017 decreased by 23 per cent and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 27 per cent, compared to 2016. “Although terrorist attacks took place in 100 countries in 2017, they were concentrated geographically. Fifty-nine per cent of all attacks took place in five countries (Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Philippines), and 70 per cent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria),” said Ambassador Nathan Sales, coordinator for counterterrorism at the department.

Speaking with reporters before launching the country counterterrorism report, he said that Iran remains state sponsor of terrorism. He said that the country brought resources across the globe to facilitate terrorist activities.

The report summarised that in 2017, the total number of terrorist attacks reported in Pakistan decreased 22 per cent, and the total number of deaths decreased 11 per cent; however, the total number of people injured increased six per cent in comparison to 2016. Perpetrator deaths comprised nine per cent of all deaths in Pakistan in 2017, compared to 24 per cent worldwide.

According to the report, for 72 per cent of all attacks in Pakistan in 2017, source materials did not identify a perpetrator group. Of the remaining attacks, 38 per cent were carried out by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the most active and deadly perpetrator group in Pakistan in 2017. The number of terrorist attacks carried out by TTP continued to decline to 60 in 2017, down from 139 in 2013.

In addition, the Khorasan branch of ISIS--which first claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Pakistan in December 2014 --carried out 27 per cent of attacks in Pakistan in 2017. ISIS-Khorasan operatives increased their activity in Pakistan in 2017, carrying out 43 attacks (+13% compared to 2016) that killed at least 330 people (+45%) and wounded more than 800 others (+85%).

Twenty other groups, including Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and a number of Baloch nationalist groups such as the Baloch Liberation Front, the Baloch Liberation Army, the Baloch Republican Army, and the United Baloch Army, carried out attacks in Pakistan in 2017, the report said.

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