Washington: Pakistan must do its part in the US-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan as the ultimate success of the mission depends on Islamabad’s efforts to combat extremist networks in the restive northwestern tribal belt, a top Republican lawmaker said on Friday.
“The ultimate success of our mission in Afghanistan depends upon the continued efforts of the government of Pakistan to fight extremist networks in the tribal areas,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said.
Over the last year, Pakistan has waged “aggressive campaigns” in Swat Valley and South Waziristan, he noted.
“And after meeting with the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff (Ashfaq Parvez Kayani) and with Prime Minister (Yousuf Raza) Gilani, we concluded that they genuinely believe that their national interests will be served in defeating the Pakistani Taliban,” McConnell said in the Senate.
“Still, action against the Quetta Shura, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban harboured just across the border in neighbouring Pakistan, isn’t likely to occur until the Pakistanis are convinced that the US has the endurance to remain committed to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan,” McConnell said in a major policy speech on terrorism..
In this regard, the leaders in both countries were “clearly troubled” by the Obama administration’s announced deadline of July 2011 for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, said McConnell, who was recently in Pakistan.
Noting that by November 2001, the Taliban had been driven from Kabul, McConnell said soon after that, an international body met to name an interim government in Afghanistan to be led by its current president Hamid Karzai.
“But despite that early success, al-Qaeda’s senior leadership was able to find a safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and a few years later it had regained enough strength to once again pose a serious threat to the US,” he said.
Meanwhile, Taliban had re-established its headquarters in Pakistan and gained enough strength as a result of inadequate Afghan security forces and poor governance to return to Afghanistan and risk success of US mission there, he argued.
“By last year, the situation had grown so perilous that our then recently appointed top general in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, issued a report stating that our failure to gain the initiative and reverse the momentum of the Taliban within 12 months could make defeating the insurgency impossible,” McConnell said.
“It was largely as a result of that assessment that the President agreed last year to send 30,000 more US forces to Afghanistan,” he said.
Referring to his recent visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said: “Among other things, we saw progress in the crucial southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
“Though still in the early phases, General McChrystal’s plan to clear these areas of Taliban, hold terrain, control the population, build Afghan security forces, and establish a viable government — for future and long-term stability — shows early signs of success, not unlike the kind of success during the surge in Iraq.”