Washington: The growth of an indigenous militant threat to Pakistan has made its strategy of supporting terror groups in the past an increasingly costly and ultimately unsustainable strategy, a top Obama Administration official has said.
"In the past, Pakistan has projected influence in Afghanistan by its toleration of and even support for Afghan militants," Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins said during a Congressional hearing.
"The growth of an indigenous militant threat to Pakistan`s own constitutional order in the form of the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and the many links between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban along with several other militant and terrorist groups active in Pakistan have made this an increasingly costly and ultimately unsustainable strategy and one that I think most of the Pakistani leadership now recognize as wholly unsustainable," he said.
After an extended effort to negotiate with the TTP, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered a major military offensive designed to clear all militants foreign and domestic out of their major stronghold in North Waziristan, he said.
"In the short term, this offensive will present challenges to Afghanistan as innocent civilian refugees along with Afghan, Pakistani and other foreign militants flee across the border," Dobbins said.
"In the longer term, however, if the Pakistani authorities deliver on their promise to deny the use of their territory to all militant groups foreign as well as domestic, this effort will significantly enhance security in both Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.
Kelly Magsamen, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said the US is watching closely what the Pakistanis are doing.
"They have taken steps, they are making gains. The Pakistanis have over 125,000 troops in the FATA. They are increasingly gaining control over territory," she said.
"But at the end of the day, the situation in the FATA is really a long-term governance challenge for Pakistan, in addition to a security challenge. So we`re encouraged by some of the steps they are making," Megsamen said.
Pakistan, she said, is an important counter terrorism partner for the US.
"There are places where our interests converge, and we work to cooperate with them. There are places where they diverge, and we engage them on those places as well. And we make very clear to the Pakistanis, in particular our concerns about the Haqqani threat," Megsamen said.
Dobbins said the US has been assured by Pakistan that it will treat all militant groups similarly and that they are going to force all foreign militants out of northwest Waziristan and the country.
He agreed with Senator Robert Menendez, who said that Pakistan looks at the Haqqani Network much different than they look at the Pakistani Taliban in terms of their own interests.
"I also think that for a variety of political and governing and other reasons, they don`t target this network. I hope that as we are considering what is our continuing engagement with Pakistan, that we`re going to not only seek commitments, but we`re going to judge accordingly how they act in terms of our assistance to them," the Senator said.