Terrorists safe havens in Pak a challenge: Pentagon

Washington, April 30: Continued presence of terrorist safe havens and role of certain “actors” in Pakistan remains a challenge in the war against terror, a US defence official has said.

“The concern about the role of safe havens in Pakistan and the role of actors in Pakistan, including the Haqqani Network, the Afghan Taliban who are located primarily, the leadership is located either in the south or in the north around Peshawar, that remains a significant challenge,” a senior defense official said at a Pentagon briefing.

Pentagon has sent its six-monthly report to the Congress on progress made in Afghanistan, the official said, adding that the United States is looking for continued and increased cooperation with the Pakistanis on the border.

“As we’ve seen it some areas; other areas we’ve seen it doing very well in some areas; other areas it’s gotten better; other areas we’re seeking much more improvement. That’s something that we continue to look at very closely. It’s certainly an area of strategic risk,” the official said.

“At the same time, given the progress that we’ve made in areas that we’ve put our effort into over the last 18 months … are we through that success on the ground able to mitigate that?”

One of the keys is the fact that some of the people who are coming in to reintegrate were in Pakistan before, the official said adding that there was a recent ceremony in Kandahar where a group of about 40 or 50 Taliban fighters appear to have come in and reintegrated.

“So as we see more and more of the numbers are still small, but the numbers appear to be increasing, and that’s the kind of thing that can mitigate against a risk of those existing safe havens. But it’s still going to be a huge challenge.”

In its report on ‘Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan’ submitted to the Congress, the Pentagon said there are significant hurdles to reaching the vision of pursuing a long-term US-Pakistani strategic partnership based on a foundation of “mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust guides a whole-of-government, civilian-military effort.”

“The history of US-Pakistani relations is fraught with negative perceptions on both sides, leading many in both countries to see the others’ pursuit of strategic objectives as being driven by transitory national security interests,” the report said.