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Pakistan still safe harbor for terrorist groups

In its annual terror assessment, released Wednesday, the Department said that Pakistan remained a safe harbor for other regionally focused terrorist groups.

“It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated Haqqani Network, as well as groups targeting India, including Lashkar e-Tayyiba and its affiliated front organizations, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory,” the report said.

Although Pakistan’s National Action Plan calls to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network – a group by the Afghan government for the deadliest attacks inside Afghanistan – Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. 

According to the report the Haqqani Network has planned and carried out numerous significant kidnappings and attacks against US and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and civilian targets. 

The government and military of Pakistan have acted inconsistently concerning terrorist safe havens throughout the country, the report said.

“Authorities did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country,” the report added.

Meanwhile, the US said that Pakistan did make some positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process, such as encouraging Taliban reductions in violence.

The report noted that Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges in protecting its borders, particularly those with Pakistan and Iran. 

“Under the bilateral Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), which met for the first time in July 2018, Afghan and Pakistani officials agreed in principle to create a mechanism for communication between security forces on each side of the border,” the report said.

Despite this review and discussions between the two governments to utilize APAPPS, progress through this forum remains slow, read the report.

Throughout 2019, the United States sought to negotiate an agreement with the Taliban that would commit the Taliban to take action against international terrorist groups, including not allowing those groups to recruit, train, or raise funds on Afghan territory, and to not host those groups. 

In return for these commitments and for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government, other Afghan leaders, and the Taliban, the United States would agree to a timeline for the conditions-based withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.