The top leaders of the Taliban group and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are still freely operating from their safe havens in Pakistan, Pentagon said in its latest report.
“Afghan-oriented militant groups, including Taliban and Haqqani Network senior leadership, retain freedom of action from safe havens inside Pakistani territory,” Pentagon said in a report provided to congress.
The report “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan”, further added that “the United States continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups.”
The report said Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from both the Afghan insurgency and extremist networks, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and to a lesser extent al Qaeda, and other insurgent and extremist groups, which continue to attempt to reassert their authority and prominence.
“These pervasive insurgent, terrorist, and criminal networks constitute a threat to Afghanistan’s stability. Revenue from opium trafficking continues to sustain the insurgency and Afghan criminal networks. Additionally, extortion and kidnappings by low-level criminal networks have increased in some areas of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remains a sanctuary for various groups. These include the Taliban, al Qaeda, AQIS, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ISIL-K, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This sanctuary and these groups remain a security challenge for both countries and pose a threat to regional stability and security,” the report added.
According to the report, Afghan government’s relationship with Pakistan remains a critical aspect of enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan, adding that “Since the beginning of President Ghani’s tenure, leaders from both countries have generally made a concerted effort to improve relations and better address mutual security interests, such as the threat from various extremist groups that reside in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
Pentagon said Afghanistan-Pakistan relations deteriorated following a major Haqqani Network attack against a National Directorate of Security (NDS) building in Kabul on April 19, 2016, and continued to do so as tensions over construction at the Torkham Gate border crossing in June 2016 led to exchanges of gunfire that resulted in casualties to both Afghan and Pakistani military personnel.
However, it added that Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken cautious steps toward improving the bilateral relationship.
“Multiple high-level engagements have produced efforts to deescalate border tensions, attempts to advance political reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and fostered greater military-to-military cooperation,” the report said.