In a strong reaction, Islamabad Wednesday lodged protest with Washington over unsubstantiated allegations in a recent Pentagon report that terrorists operate against Afghanistan and India from ‘sanctuaries’ inside Pakistan.
US Ambassador Richard Olson was summoned in Foreign Office where Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz conveyed to him Pakistan’s protest over the report.
Mr Aziz conveyed to the US ambassador that government of Pakistan has taken serious exception to comments contained in the report sent to the US Congress under the title ‘Progress towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan’.
The adviser noted with concern that despite Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in areas of mutual interest, the recently released report also carries unsubstantiated allegations of the existence of terrorist ‘sanctuaries’ in Pakistan or that proxy forces are operating against Afghanistan and India from inside Pakistan.
Aziz told Ambassador Olson that such allegations were of particular concern at this point when Pakistan government has launched comprehensive operations against militants in North Waziristan. He said military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ has been broadly welcomed internationally, also in the US, and the operation has successfully eliminated terrorist hideouts and is directed against all militants, without any distinction. “We therefore hope that the issues will be seen in their correct perspective,” he emphasised.
Interestingly, these developments are taking place ahead of the maiden visit of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on November 16 to the United States where he would be meeting senior officials of Pentagon.
Our special correspondent from Washington reported that amid growing India-US strategic partnership, the Pentagon has accused Pakistan of using militants as its proxies to further its plans in the region, especially with regards to India and militarily-fragile Afghanistan.
Pentagon in its 100-page report to US Congress stated, “Afghan-and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability... Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military.”
The report added, “These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation. Such groups continue to act as the primary irritant in Afghan-Pakistan bilateral relations.” Referring to the attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat, the Pentagon said this was done just ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India.
“In May of this reporting period, the Indian consulate in Herat Province was attacked by a group of four heavily armed militants. The attack came three days prior to the swearing-in of the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi is perceived as being close to Hindu nationalist groups, a fact that may have played into the timing of the attack,” it said.
“In June, the US Department of State announced that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the attack. Following the attack, former Afghan President Karzai denounced the attack and made strong statements supporting relations with India,” the report said.
The Pentagon told Congress that India continues to support Afghanistan, believing a secure and stable Afghanistan will benefit the region and facilitate economic corridors into Central Asia. “India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership declaration in 2011, which formalised cooperation on governance, economics, commerce, education, public administration, and security and law enforcement,” it said.
Subsequent engagements are reinforcing the positive relationship between Afghanistan and India, the report said. “India supports a variety of high-visibility projects and initiatives in Afghanistan. These ventures are focused primarily on major infrastructure projects, including electricity generation and transmission, road construction, and mining,” it said.
“India has shown increased interest in Afghan security assistance, though activities in this area remain limited. India currently offers India based training to ANSF personnel across a number of specialties and the Indian government committed to expand this programme. India does not provide direct military support or training in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said.