WASHINGTON - The United States has called on Pakistan to go after all terrorist networks operating on its soil, reiterating that it will not hesitate “to act alone” to “disrupt and destroy” them.
“The problem is that there are forces within the Pakistani government — specifically in Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence or ISI — that refuse to take similar steps against all the terrorist groups active in Pakistan, tolerating some groups – or even worse,” Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary on Countering the Financing of Terrorism, said in a speech to a Washington-based think-tank.
“This is a distinction we cannot stand for,” he added.
“We continue to urge our partners in Pakistan to go after all terrorist networks operating in their country. We stand ready to help them. But there should be no doubt that while we remain committed to working with Pakistan to confront ongoing terrorist financing and operations, the US will not hesitate to act alone, when necessary, to disrupt and destroy these networks,” Szubin warned.
Diplomatic observers here saw Szubin’s remarks as a blunt reminder, without a direct mention or reference, to Pakistan of the May 2, 2011 US commando raid in Abbottabad in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
At the same time, Szubin, who was speaking at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said Pakistan has been — and remains — a critical counter-terrorism partner in many respects.
“Of course, Pakistanis are themselves often the victims of brutal terrorist attacks on schools, markets, and mosques, and the list unfortunately goes on. And in the face of such violence, Pakistan has in some ways pushed back,” he said.
The hard-hitting comments of the US official came as India is already running a campaign to isolate Pakistan in the world community, accusing it of harbouring certain militant groups and using them as proxies in neighbouring countries.
Pakistan has been conducting country-wide intelligence-based operations against terrorists of all hue and colour and has successfully cleared its north-western hilly terrain along Afghanistan of Taliban and other militants.
The country strongly rejects these allegations. Islamabad has repeatedly said that India was trying to paint Kashmiris freedom fight as terrorism and maligning Pakistan to divert the world attention from worst-kind of human rights violations and state oppression in the occupied valley.
Szubin said, “Pakistan has achieved success in its ongoing operations against traditional terrorist safe havens in northwest Pakistan. It has officially designated ISIL (Daesh) as a terrorist organisation. And it has gone after the funding and operational capabilities of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.”
The US has been insisting that Pakistan has not yet placed adequate pressure on the Haqqani Network to prevent them from plotting deadly cross-border attacks in Afghanistan, a stand backed by the Kabul government.
Pakistan has been rejecting claims by US officials that it still tolerates the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan Agency. It maintains that its counterterrorism operations, especially Zarb-i-Azb, have targeted and uprooted all militant infrastructures on its side of the Pak-Afghan border. Haqqanis, it says, are now entirely based in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Afghan authorities allege leaders of the Haqqani group, which is fighting alongside the Taliban, are directing high-profile attacks, particularly in the capital, Kabul, from their sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, with the covert support of the country’s intelligence operatives.
There is not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis” by the Pakistan government, The commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson had said last month.
“The Haqqanis operationally have been able to continue to conduct operations inside Afghanistan. They constitute the primary threat to Americans, to coalition members and to Afghans, especially in and around Kabul,” he said.
Pakistani Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani last month strongly rejected the allegations that Islamabad was patronising militants, saying his country was taking indiscriminate action against all militant outfits including the Haqqani Network in operation Zarb-e-Azb.
In an interview to Voice of America’s Urdu service, Jilani noted that Pakistani armed forces wiped out over 4,000 terrorists from their soil during Zarb-e-Azb. “Pakistan has also been fighting against the proxies dating back to the Cold War era (many of which are a creation of the US herself),” he added.