WASHINGTON, DC — Pakistan has urged the Afghan Taliban and its al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network allies to go back to Afghanistan and join the “political mainstream” there in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s request that Islamabad take “decisive action” with the jihadist groups, Breitbart News has learned.
The Pakistani government’s claim, which acknowledges that the mentioned terrorist groups operate on Pakistani soil, appears to stem from the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Pakistan into bringing the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network to the negotiation table with Kabul.
The Trump administration has suspended about $1 billion in security for Pakistan due to Islamabad’s support for jihadist groups’ killing and maiming American troops and their allies in Afghanistan, saying the Muslim-majority country could get the money back if it took “decisive action” against the terrorists.
During an event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Monday, Breitbart News submitted a question to the moderator. The question to the guest speaker, Pakistani Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, was about Trump’s ordering Pakistan to take “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and other terrorists operating within its borders to get the suspended security aid back: Is Pakistan willing to play ball?
Amb. Chaudhry responded:
Pakistan would very much want to push the Taliban and the Haqqanis to Afghanistan because they belong to Afghanistan. We don’t want them to bring stress to our relation with your country [the United States] and with Afghanistan. We think that they should join the political mainstream there, and we will continue to move them to that path. Regardless of whether the U.S. has made a decision on [releasing] aid or not … this is a step that we are taking in our own interest and in the interest of peace in the region:
Chaudhry’s claims contradict assertions that the Trump administration’s Afghan war strategy has pressured Pakistan to urge the Afghan Taliban to engage in peace talks with Kabul.
Last week, Taliban jihadists reportedly met with a representative from the Afghan government in Islamabad to participate in “exploratory talks” to discuss potential peace talks.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, suggested Trump’s Afghan war strategy is pushing the Taliban to consider peace.
Moreover, the Express Tribune reported:
Washington is pushing Islamabad to convince the Haqqani Network to come to the negotiating table, according to a senior Pakistani official, who not only has direct knowledge of the development, but also is part of the ongoing talks with American interlocutors.
Islamabad has long denied accusations it is harboring terrorist groups.
Through the CSIS, Breitbart News asked the Pakistani ambassador to describe the level of influence Islamabad holds over the Afghan Taliban which, according to the Pentagon, has long enjoyed sanctuary in Pakistan.
Ambassador Chaudhry conceded that his country holds at least some sway over the terrorist group, noting that Pakistan has participated and hosted many of the high-profile peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul.
“As for our leverage over the Taliban … we think that we don’t want to give it up,” noted the Pakistani envoy, referring to Islamabad’s ability to urge the Taliban to engage in peace talks.
In recent months, relations between the United States and Pakistan have soured due to Pakistan’s reluctance to abide by President Trump’s demands that the Muslim-majority nation stop serving as a sanctuary for jihadists.
Chaudhry’s remarks Monday echo what he said last Friday, telling the Express Tribune that Pakistan intends to push the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, considered the top threat facing American troops in the region, back into Afghanistan.
Pakistan has repeatedly insisted that it does not harbor terrorists.
Citing BBC Urdu, the Express Tribune reported:
However, if the U.S. has any information [on the issue] then they should share it with us as we want to eliminate them [Taliban and Haqqanis] as well. Our position on the issue is very clear that we want them back to their country… we don’t want Taliban and Haqqanis living with us. In fact, we are forcing them to go and live in Afghanistan and join the political mainstream there, and they’re not accepted here anymore.
Taliban jihadists and their allies controlled or contested about 45 percent of Afghanistan as of the end of September 2017, independent and government assessments revealed.
Pentagon officials have long accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban and their allies.
Terrorists kill and injure most U.S. military as well as Afghan civilian and security forces in Afghan provinces that border Pakistan. The majority of terror sanctuaries in the region lie along the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, home to the highest concentration of terror groups in the world.
On Friday, “Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal had stated that the country was determined to eradicate terrorism from its soil and the recent meetings with the US officials were also aimed at finding the common targets in this regard,” reports the Express Tribune.
However, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has claimed Islamabad had rescinded the Muslim-majority country’s alliance with the United States over Trump’s decision to cut aid.