Home South Asia Afghanistan Pakistan welcomes Gen. Nicholson’s offer to target Tehreek-e-Taliban

Pakistan welcomes Gen. Nicholson’s offer to target Tehreek-e-Taliban

Gen. Nicholson
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News Analysis |

On Wednesday, Islamabad welcomed the US offer of targeting the hideouts of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a group that is using Afghan soil to mount attacks on Pakistan. The overture by the US comes just days before Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis’ visit to Pakistan.

According to Voice of America (VOA) radio, Pakistan believes that this offer augurs well for efforts to eradicate terrorism from the region. The development comes amid continuing tensions between Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul. Recently, Pakistan strongly protested against cross-border attacks from the Afghan side and has demanded reciprocity in counterterrorism efforts from the US and Afghan forces.

Earlier this week, Gen. Nicholson said that he would require two years to clear 80% area from Taliban’s control. Thereafter an air campaign was launched to cause attrition to the brazen Taliban.

Concomitantly, in retaliation of an attack on a check post in Bajaur that resulted in the martyrdom of Capt. Junaid Hafeez and Sepoy Raham Sher, Pakistan pounded a barrage of shells in the Kunar province. Last week, COAS Gen. Bajwa, in a one on one meeting with Commander CENTCOM, Gen. Votel, demanded action from Afghanistan.

The current offer has come from Gen. Nicholson, the commander of U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “We have also offered if they [Pakistan] have a concern about anything on this side of the Durand Line [the border] to let us know and we will act against it so that it is not necessary for cross-border shelling to occur, “he said while addressing a news conference in Kabul.

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Ostensibly, the four-star infantry general made the offer to discourage Pakistan from carrying out cross-border assaults. Though observers in Washington and Islamabad see it as a positive development, there is a grave concern that despite repeated requests, the US and Afghan forces have not eliminated anti-Pakistan militants. Mullah Fazlullah and others who were responsible for a series of attacks on Pakistan including APS Peshawar are still at large.

Pakistan and the US are at loggerheads on how to deal with the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. While the US wants to bring the Taliban on the table by defeating it militarily, Pakistan has warned that no military option is tenable. This is likely to be the main agenda of discussion when Gen. Mattis visits Pakistan next month.

Territories that were once hotbeds of militancy are now in control of the state of Pakistan. Developmental works are well underway in places such as North Waziristan, for example.

Talking to VOA, DG ISPR, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor reiterated that Pakistan has done more than its capacity allowed it to do. He lamented the lack of reciprocity from the Afghan and the US forces. He said: “Unilaterally Pakistan, having cleared all areas on Pakistan side, has restored writ of [the] state, including steps like enhancing [troop] presence along the border [with Afghanistan], establishing new forts and posts and has also started to fence the border to deny freedom of movement to illegal crossers and terrorists.”

Pakistan has undertaken counterterrorism military operations to evict terrorism from their sources of strength. Territories that were once hotbeds of militancy are now in control of the state of Pakistan. Developmental works are well underway in places such as North Waziristan, for example.

Read more: Peaceful Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest: General Zubair

The considerable decrease in terrorists’ activities has come at a great cost. As of yesterday, the martyrdom of Major Ishaq in an anti-terror operation swelled the total number of Pakistan soldiers martyred this year to 193.

Also, a report produced by the Institute of Economics and Peace, an Australian based research group noted last week:” The reduction in deaths from terrorism is in part attributable to Operation Zarb-e-Azb by the Pakistani Army; a military effort which started in mid-2014.”

Pakistan and the US are at loggerheads on how to deal with the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. While the US wants to bring the Taliban on the table by defeating it militarily, Pakistan has warned that no military option is tenable.

It remains to be seen whether the US forces follow up this offer with practical actions on the ground. As corroborated by the successful rescue of the Coleman-Boyle family, cooperation can pay rich dividends to both sides. Will Gen. Mattis, who is often considered as friendly to Pakistan chalk out an effective cooperation mechanism between the two countries.

Many are of the opinion that the growing US calls for Indian involvement in Afghanistan and the continued reliance on the military plank by the US will keep Pakistan and the US on the collision course, albeit, scant breathers will make the environment positive every now and then.

Read more: Hekmatyar urges Pakistan to “stay away” from Afghanistan

However, the idea that the Taliban will be defeated militarily is still tenable according to the Pentagon. Earlier this week, Gen. Nicholson said that he would require two years to clear 80% area from Taliban’s control. Thereafter an air campaign was launched to cause attrition to the brazen Taliban. That said, the Taliban is not likely to buckle under mounting pressure.


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