Saturday Mar 11, 2017
WASHINGTON: A US Congressman, known for his dislike for Pakistan, on Thursday introduced a strongly worded bill in Congress to declare “untrustworthy ally” Pakistan a “state sponsor of terrorism”, media reports said.
“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” said Congressman Ted Poe, who is the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism.
“From harbouring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani Network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror. And it’s not America’s. It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Poe said while introducing the bill, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Act of 2015, in Congress on Thursday.
The bill requires the US president to issue a report within 90 days, answering whether Pakistan has provided support for international terrorism. Thirty days after that, the secretary of state is required to submit a follow-up report, which says that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism, or a detailed justification as to why it does not meet the legal criteria for such a designation.
The same bill was presented in the Congress last year when the Obama administration was passing its last days and there was no time to discuss and formally convince Congress why the United States should continue to consider Pakistan an ally in the war against terrorism.
Waseem Abbasi adds: Contrary to the perception created by some think tanks, the commander of US Central Command (Centcom) has applauded the Pakistan Army’s cooperation with the US military in recent counter-terrorism operations along the border of Afghanistan.
While answering questions of senators here, Gen Joseph Votel also admitted that the Afghan government is losing control over areas in the face of mounting Taliban fight. He said the Pakistan Army has taken action against primary US adversaries recently. Some India leaning think tanks in Washington recently increased efforts to convince the White House to revisit its ties with Pakistan arguing that the South Asian country is not doing enough to help the US in Afghanistan.
“They (Pakistan Army) have done things against our primary concerns like Taliban and Haqqani Network. We need to be more consistent and focused in that area. We will continue to engage with Pakistan,” he said in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He admitted that the Afghan government has lost control over around half of the country as a result of recent fighting.When asked why the Afghan government, which had control over 70 percent of the country just an year ago, is now only controlling about 50 percent, Votel said it was result “of fighting that is taking place in the country and efforts of Taliban to be more resurgent”.
The general also appreciated the leadership of Pakistan Army, saying recent meetings with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa were encouraging.“They had been supportive recently with US commander in Afghanistan Gen Nicholson in some operations along the border,” he said while referring to the Pakistan military. “That is a very positive sign,” he said.
The Centcom commander expressed concern over recent escalation of tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan and underlined the importance of ties between the two countries for the success of US mission. He said the United States should play a key role in bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan together.
The senators also discussed Russian efforts to destabilise and undermine Afghanistan.When asked about sanctuaries across the Afghan border for the Taliban and Haqqani Network, Votel said he has talked with Pakistani military leaders who have shown an increased interest in cooperating with the coalition and Kabul along the border.
He said despite challenges with respect to the US-Pakistani relationship, the US forces have endeavoured to maintain a substantial level of engagement with their Pakistani military counterparts. “We continue to execute a robust joint exercise programme. Most recently, the Pakistani Air Force sent airmen and aircraft to participate in Exercise Red Flag and Green Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada this past summer,” he said.
Votel said Pakistani military also continues to support the US efforts elsewhere in the region. “Most notably, the Pakistani Navy is the most consistent and longstanding participant, second only to the United States, in Combined Task Force (CTF)-150 (counter-terrorism operations) and CTF-151 (counter-piracy operations) led by US Naval Forces Central (USNAVCENT).”
—Originally published in The News