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January 31, 2019

Militants in Pakistan to continue attacks in region: US intel chief

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January 31, 2019

WASHINGTON: Despite the seemingly improving relations between the Trump administration and Islamabad, the US top intelligence official has assessed that militant outfits residing in Pakistani territories would continue to upset the region.

“Militant groups supported by Pakistan will continue to take advantage of their safe haven there to plan and conduct attacks in neighboring countries, and possibly beyond,” Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said in a congressional testimony Wednesday.

He also added that the US remains concerned about Pakistan’s continued development and control of nuclear weapons.

In an assessment report presented to the panel, Coats says that “Islamabad’s narrow approach to counterterrorismcooperation — using some groups as policy tools and confronting only the militant groups that directly threaten Pakistan — almost certainly will frustrate US counterterrorism efforts against the Taliban.”

He was also of the view that continued growth and development of Pakistan and India’s nuclear weapons programme increases the risk of a nuclear security incident in South Asia. “Pakistan continues to develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer range ballistic missiles. India this year conducted its first deployment of a nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear missiles,” he said.

Director Dan Coats also told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that neither Afghan government nor the Taliban would be able to gain a strategic advantage in the Afghan war in the coming year, even if Coalition support remains at current levels. “However, current efforts to achieve an agreement with the Taliban and decisions on a possible withdrawal of US troops could play a key role in shaping the direction of the country,” he said.

Coats further said that cross-border terrorism, firing across the Line of Control (LoC), divisive national elections in India, and Islamabad’s perception of its position with the United States relative to India would contribute to strained India-Pakistan relations at least through May 2019, the deadline for the Indian election, and probably beyond.

“Despite limited confidence-building measures—such as both countries recommitting in May 2018 to the 2003 cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border—continued terrorist attacks and cross-border firing in Kashmir have hardened each country’s position and reduced their political will to seek rapprochement. Political maneuvering resulting from the Indian national elections probably will further constrain near-term opportunities for improving ties,” the intelligence assessment report said.

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