Washington: The US has told Islamabad and other regional partners that state support for terrorist proxies will not be tolerated, expressing concern over the freedom of movement of militant groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network in Pakistan that pose security threats to Afghanistan, according to a Department of Defence report.
The semi-annual “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” report, which covered events from June 1 to November 30, 2018, came on Thursday amid reports that the US government was planning to withdraw about half of its 14,000 troops from the war-torn South Asian country.
“In this reporting period, the US continued to call on regional partners to reinforce our messages that state support for terrorist proxies will not be tolerated, that cross-border cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is essential, and that the Taliban cannot achieve its objectives through continued military conflict,” according to the Pentagon.
Washington again conveyed to all levels of Pakistani leadership the importance of taking action against all terrorist and militant groups.
“Although Pakistani military operations have disrupted some militant sanctuaries, certain groups — such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network — retain freedom of movement in Pakistan,” the Pentagon said.
According to the report, Afghanistan faced a “continuing threat from an externally supported insurgency and the highest regional concentration of terrorist groups in the world.”
It said that the Haqqani network continued to be an integral part of the Taliban’s effort to pressure the Afghan government in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan.
The US Defence Department said that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remained a sanctuary for various groups, including the Taliban, Al-Qaeda core (AQ), Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the Haqqani network (HQN), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ISIS-K, among others.
It also said that the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan had been slowed and the country was increasingly ready for a political settlement of the conflict.
The report, among many reasons, cited “increased military pressure on the Taliban” and “international calls for peace” that appeared to have driven the insurgent group to negotiations.
US authorities held preliminary talks with Taliban representatives in the United Arab Emirates earlier this week in an attempt to end the 17-year-old Afghan conflict.
The report, however, acknowledged that “an array of challenges” like Afghan political stability, security force capacity and regional spoilers, remained.
The Pentagon urged for increased cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying it was critical to maintain pressure on terror groups and for meeting the enduring security requirements on both sides of the shared border.
US President Donald Trump had announced his country’s South Asia Strategy in August 2017. The primary goal of the strategy is a durable and inclusive political settlement of the war in Afghanistan.