Taliban, associated militant networks still using Pakistani soil: Gen. Mattis

General-James-MattisKABUL: The US defense secretary-designate General James Mattis has said the Taliban group is still using the Pakistani soil for insurgency in Afghanistan and the sanctuaries of the group along with the associated militant networks in the country is a key operational issue faced by Afghan forces.

At his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Thursday afternoon, Gen. Mattis said “Sanctuaries and freedom of movement for the Afghan Taliban and associated militant networks inside Pakistani territory is a key operational issue faced by the Afghan security forces.”

Gen. Mattis further added that he would “examine efforts to deny sanctuary to the extremist forces” undermining the stability and security of Afghanistan, if confirmed as the defense secretary.

He also underlined   the need to stay engaged with Pakistan while asking it to do more to eradicate terrorism from the region.

“If confirmed, I will work with the State Department and the Congress to incentivise Pakistan’s cooperation on issues critical to our national interests and the region’s security, with focus on Pakistan’s need to expel or neutralise externally-focused militant groups that operate within its borders,” Gen. Mattis said in response to a question.

This comes as the US Department of State said Tuesday that problem regarding the safe havens of the terrorist groups in Pakistan still persists.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner made the remarks in response to a question regarding Afghan officials concerns about the attacks being carried out in Afghanistan using the Pakistani soil.

Endorsing Afghanistan’s view that terrorists are able to strike at whenever they want to because of the existence of safe havens, terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan, Toner said “Well, it continues – so the short answer to your first question is yes, and I think we’ve been very frank and very open about publicly saying to – to Pakistan that it needs to not provide any safe haven to groups that will or are intent on carrying out attacks on Afghanistan.”

The Afghan officials have long criticized Pakistan for remaining reckless to act against the Afghan militant groups using its soil to plan and coordinate attacks in Afghanistan. -KP

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