Washington: A top US lawmaker has sought to use the pending military package as leverage for Pakistan to act against terrorist safe haven rather than working against Afghanistan government and its security forces.
“We currently have a pending military package for Pakistan before us on this committee. We need to use this as leverage to get Pakistan to do more on the counter terrorism front and to collaborate, rather than work against, the Afghan government and its security forces,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ros-Lehtinen had recently led a Congressional Delegation trip to Afghanistan.
“The administration needs to revisit its strategy, not just put a halt on the withdrawal, because artificial timelines will not work, and it needs to also get buy-in from Pakistan,” she said during a congressional hearing this week.
“(Afghan President, Ashraf) Ghani had reached out his hand to Pakistan but has been rebuffed. The US cannot afford to have Pakistan play into the instability in Afghanistan and to continue to allow terrorists safe haven inside its borders,” the Congresswoman said.
The one thing that was abundantly clear to me this time around, and echoed by everyone with whom we met, was that the Afghan government’s eagerness to cooperate with us has improved vastly and that the team of Ghani and Abdullah is an improvement over Karzai, she noted.
The current Afghan leaders are saying the right things and are undertaking efforts to root out corruption to secure and stabilise the country.
“We cannot abandon our ally and we must double our efforts to remain engaged to seek a more stable Afghanistan,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen expressed her concern over the growing presence of militant group Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan – mainly by attracting some of the more radical elements of the Taliban who have broken away and sworn allegiance to ISIS.
“That makes our strategy in Afghanistan that much more important,” she said.
“General Campbell told Congress that the terror group’s status in Afghanistan has grown from nascent to operationally emergent over the course of the year,” she added.
“Yet, when I led our Congressional Delegation trip to Afghanistan, I was shocked to hear that our mission does not give our commanders and troops the authority to go after ISIS – that the task for containing and defeating this rising threat falls squarely on the Afghan government and its security forces,” she said.