NEW DELHI: A quarterly report by the US Department of Defence to the US Congress has spoken of Pakistan’s continued support for violence by hard-line Taliban associated groups such as the Haqqani network.
The report comes follows the US and the Taliban signing a peace agreement on 29 February to allow US-led international forces to leave Afghanistan after an almost two-decade long stay.
The report by the Inspector General of the Department of Defence, compiled with the help of the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development, observed a continuity in Islamabad’s quest for what it has long defined as its interests in Afghanistan.
The report covers the period from January to March of Operation Freedom's Sentinel - the US military mission in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan continues to harbor the Taliban and associated militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani Network, which maintains the ability to conduct attacks against Afghan interests," said the report, issued on 19 May while referring to reporting by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
It noted that Islamabad has encouraged the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks but that Pakistan "refrained from applying coercive pressure that would seriously threaten its relationship with the Afghan Taliban to dissuade the group from conducting further violence."
The Pentagon’s report says according to the DIA, Islamabad’s primary strategic objective in Afghanistan is to counter its regional rival, India, and prevent the spillover of instability from the neighboring country.
"Pakistan likely views increased Taliban influence in Afghanistan as supporting its overall objectives and will seek to influence intra-Afghan peace talks in a direction favorable to Pakistan," it added.
The findings are in contrast with statements by Pakistani leaders who have repeatedly assured Washington that they support peace and stability in Afghanistan.
"The prime minister (Imran Khan) reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for facilitation of the Afghan peace process and underscored the importance of next steps leading to the earliest commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations," a Pakistani government statement had said after an 22 April telephone conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump.
Pakistan was the Taliban’s principal foreign backer after its emergence in southern Afghanistan in the 1990s and together with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized its government in 1996.
Islamabad, however, switched sides and supported the US-led military attack in October 2001 after pressure from the then George W Bush administration. The Taliban were ousted from Kabul in November 2001.