In Afghanistan, US senators warn Pakistan against harboring Taliban safe havens

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KABUL (TCA) — A U.S. congressional delegation on July 4 warned that Washington will change its approach towards Pakistan if Islamabad fails to tackle militants effectively, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews agency reported.

The five-member bipartisan delegation comprising Senator John McCain and fellow Senators Lindsey Graham, Elizabeth Warren, David Perdue and Sheldon Whitehouse arrived in Kabul after holding discussions with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

The delegation stressed the need for the elimination of the Taliban and its brutal offshoot Haqqani Network and their safe havens in Pakistan.

“We told them (Pakistan) that in our view, the Haqqani having a safe zone in their country was not acceptable. They (Pakistan) responded that they have taken some measures, such as clearing Waziristan and doing some other work that I think has been important. We told them that we would be discussing the entire situation with the (U.S.) president, with general Mattis and General McMaster. We made it very clear that we expect them to help us in cooperating in our struggle particularly against Haqqani as well as other terror organizations,” said Senator McCain.

“The time for strategy has come. We need a strategy in the United States that defines our role in Afghanistan, defines our objective and explains how we are going to get from here to there,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“To Pakistan, if they don’t change their behavior, we are not going to give the right answer, if they don’t change their behavior, then maybe we should change our behavior toward Pakistan as a nation,” said Senator Lindsey Graham.

In the past, the U.S senators have said that the existence of Taliban hideouts and safe havens on the other side of the Durand Line posed serious threats to the stability and security in Afghanistan.

The delegation was taken by Pakistan’s military to the semi-autonomous South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. South Waziristan and the neighboring North Waziristan district have for years harbored local and foreign militants that have been blamed for terrorist attacks in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.

The congressional delegation’s trip comes as Islamabad faces mounting criticism for providing sanctuaries to Taliban-linked groups who are plotting attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan.

In Kabul, the congressional delegation also said that the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan was needed and that more authorities should be given to these forces to win the war in the country.

But McCain and other senators suggested that an incremental increase in troops would not be enough, RFE/RL reported. The Taliban is “not going to negotiate unless they think they are losing,” McCain said. “So we need to win and have the advantage on the battlefield and then enter into a serious negotiation to resolve the conflict.”

Sergey Kwan

TCA