Washington: The most effective way to influence Pakistan to change its attitude towards militant outfits is for the US to succeed in Afghanistan wherein terror groups like Taliban and Haqqani network would have no place, a top Pentagon commander based in the war-torn country has said.
"It is generally assessed that the most effective way of influencing Pakistan in fact is by having it see that Afghanistan is going to turn out reasonably well; that indeed the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and some of these other organisations will not prevail," General David Petraeus, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said during a Congressional hearing.
"Therefore, to reassess what relationships might exist with some of these organisations and whether it`s time to deal with them a bit more on Pakistani soil, where they have sanctuaries, noting that the Pakistanis have sustained enormous losses in the conduct of quite an impressive counterinsurgency campaign in what used to be the North-West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “
"And then in various of the agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, while noting again that they also recognise that there is clearly more that needs to be done and that there are areas that need more attention," Petraeus said while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.
"Clearly, what happens in Afghanistan is related to what happens in Pakistan but also vice versa. Really even more broadly regionally, I think you have to take into account the actions of Iran, the actions of the Central Asian states, and certainly India and then, even beyond that, Russia and others are all very important actors in the regional context of this effort," Petraeus said in response to a question.
Petraeus said Pakistanis clearly recognise that more needs to be done against groups that reside in various areas of Pakistan, in North Waziristan, in Baluchistan that are causing significant security challenges for their neighbour and their partner Afghanistan.
At the same time, he argued that it is fair to recognise that the Pakistanis would rightly state that they have put a lot of short sticks into a lot of hornet`s nests in recent years, and they absolutely have to consolidate some of their gains and solidify their gains and build on them before they can take on major new fights, he added.
Pakistan, he said, has endured innumerable challenges in recent years: terrible natural disasters, a spread of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani that forced the initiation some two years of very tough fighting, very impressive counterinsurgency operations, in which the Pakistanis have lost thousands of soldiers and also thousands of civilians, he said.
"The fact is that the cooperation between Pakistan, the Afghan forces and ISAF forces has never been better. We have had a number of meetings literally just in the last couple of months to coordinate operations where Pakistan is continuing its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani," Petraeus said.
"But there`s also no question about the very worrying developments in terms of extremist activity in Pakistan with the assassination of the governor of the Punjab and the reaction to that, which was troubling to many Pakistanis, and then more recently the assassination of the minister of minorities," the US commander said.
Meanwhile, Petraeus said the scheduled July drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan might include some combat troops.
"I am still formulating the options that I will provide to the (US) President and the recommendation that I will make. But I do believe that there will be some combat forces included in those options and in that recommendation," General Petraeus said at the Congressional hearing.
"There are still obviously some months to run. It is something that will be, again, based on conditions on the ground. So we want to...frankly, any commander always wants as much flexibility as he can have prior to doing – providing options and recommendations, and so we`re going to exercise that to the best of our ability," Petraeus said.
"Those conditions that I will assess will clearly include an assessment of the Afghan National Security Forces and their ability to do more as we do less, as we thin out, but don`t hand off in accordance with transition principles," he said in response to a question during a hearing on Afghanistan convened by the House Armed Services Committee.
"Needless to say, the security situation and whether they can, indeed, handle it if it has been reduced to that point and how they have grown in their capability. We also must include governance and development, because those elements have a direct effect on the security situation."
"If governance is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people, if it gains their support and their willing participation, then, indeed, obviously, you`re able to build on the hard-fought security gains on the foundation of security that is essential, but is not enough. Then beyond that, of course, the gradual development in the economic realm, in the provision of basic services, with increasingly those services being provided by Afghan rather than international organizations, is also essential to that," he said.
Petraeus said America`s core objective in Afghanistan relates to al Qaeda, and that is to make sure that al Qaeda does not return to Afghanistan and establish the kind of sanctuary they had prior to 9/11.
"The only way to make sure they don`t return in greater numbers is to help Afghanistan over time develop the capability to secure and to govern itself, and that leads to the need for the comprehensive civil-military campaign that I`ve described to you this morning," he said.
"We`re not trying to build again Switzerland in that country. We`re trying to help Afghanistan achieve what is sufficient for Afghanistan, Afghanistan right or Afghanistan good enough," the general said in response to a question.