WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s new Afghan policy is based on the assumption that Pakistan cannot be a terrorist safe haven for and as such it is important for the plan to succeed, a top American general said on Tuesday.
“There’s a key assumption in our — in the president’s South Asia strategy, that Pakistan cannot continue to be a sanctuary for Haqqanis, Taliban and others in our,” General Joseph Dunford said.
Also chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dunford made the remarks during his reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
To a question from Senator John McCain, Dunford said the existence of terrorist sanctuaries on Pakistan’s soil was unacceptable.
“We ought to bring the full weight of the US government and our coalition partners on Pakistan to ensure that they do not provide the sanctuary that they have provided historically to groups like Haqqani and the Taliban,” he added.
“Do you believe it’s possible for the United States to achieve its national security objectives in Afghanistan, as long as Pakistan provides support and sanctuary to groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network?” McCain asked.
In response, the general said: “I do not believe that we can attain our objectives in Afghanistan unless we materially change the behaviour of Pakistan.”
In Afghanistan, he said, the US was beginning to deploy additional forces in support of Trump’s broader strategy. He also stressed the need for renewed focus to restore joint readiness and develop war-fighting capabilities needed to defend the nation.
“It will help to get the Afghan security forces to reverse the trends of the last two years — casualties and the lost ground that they have experienced,” he said.
Earlier, in a written response to questions, Dunford said the new strategy applied multi-faceted pressure on the Taliban to incentivise them to participate in the peace process.
In the near term, the strategy has the objectives of enabling the Afghan forces to be able to conduct increased offensive operations and secure more of the population from Taliban influence.
“The strategic objectives also envision more effective Afghan counter-corruption actions, reduction in Pakistani safe havens and successful elections in 2018 and 2019.
“Indicators of progress longer-term include a decline in violence in Afghanistan, and the Taliban participation in peace talks,” he said.
Dunford said the new strategy removed restrictions on military authorities and force levels to reinforce the US relationship with Afghan forces in support of a peace process.
“Specifically, we’re shifting from a timeline to a condition-based approach, and we are adjusting our authorities to increase the effectives of our train, advise, and assist efforts with the Afghan forces,” he added. Pajhwok