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Pakistan Urges U.S. To Tackle Militant Sanctuaries In Afghanistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (C) arrives at the parliament in Islamabad on August 1.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (C) arrives at the parliament in Islamabad on August 1.

Pakistan has strongly rejected U.S. accusations that it is prolonging the war in Afghanistan by harboring terrorists and said the United States should focus its efforts on eliminating militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

In a rare statement on August 24 by Islamabad's National Security Committee, which includes Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his army chiefs, Pakistan repeated its complaint that it is being "scapegoated" by the United States to cover for Washington's own failure to win or settle the war in Afghanistan.

The strongly worded statement reflected the outrage and shock in Pakistan over U.S. President Donald Trump's threat to withdraw aid or downgrade Pakistan's status as a military ally unless it eliminates "agents of chaos, violence, and terror" within its borders that are threatening Afghanistan.

Even opposition leaders in Islamabad have demanded a strong rebuttal from Abbasi.

The committee said Pakistan has participated in and encouraged every peace effort in Afghanistan while waging a campaign against terrorists within Pakistan that has led to the death of "tens of thousands" of soldiers and civilians but produced notable success in reducing violence recently.

"To scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilizing Afghanistan," the leaders said, adding that "Pakistan has an abiding interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan" and will continue to seek a negotiated solution to the 16-year war.

The leaders noted that Pakistan has been dealing with costly "blowback" from the long Afghan war, particularly a "deluge of refugees, flow of drugs and arms, and more recently...terrorist safe havens in eastern Afghanistan from where anti-Pakistan terrorist groups continue to operate and launch attacks inside Pakistan."

"We would like to see effective and immediate U.S. military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harboring terrorists and miscreants on Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan," the leaders said.

In rejecting the U.S. allegation that Pakistan has provided safe harbor to the Afghan Taliban, which the United States claims is close to elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence services, the leaders said Islamabad has been "indiscriminate" in pursuing "all terrorist networks" and has "sacrificed tens of thousands of troops and civilians in this fight."

They said Pakistan has suffered $120 billion in economic damages during its antiterror campaign and demanded that Washington provide more "understanding and recognition of our efforts" and "sacrifice."

Pakistan estimates that nearly 17,000 people have been killed in militant attacks since Islamabad joined the U.S. "war on terrorism" in 2001.

Islamabad's leaders boasted that their own antiterror efforts have been more successful recently than efforts in neighboring Afghanistan, and offered to help Kabul and Washington clear border areas of militants and "reinvigorate" the peace process.

"Pakistan’s effective counterterrorism operations have clearly proved that the tide of terrorism can be reversed and we are willing to share our experience with both the U.S. and Afghanistan," they said.

The Pakistani leaders also rejected the U.S. bid to get India more involved in Afghanistan, saying India's long-running suppression of Muslims fighting for "self-determination" in Kashmir shows that New Dehli's policies are "inimical to peace."

Washington's claim that it has paid billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan is misleading, the leaders added, because U.S. payments to Pakistan since 2001 have covered only part of the cost of providing ground facilities and air corridors to U.S. troops operating in Afghanistan.

Despite Pakistan's protests, U.S. intelligence agencies say Islamabad has long tolerated the presence of Afghan Taliban and its allied Haqqani network militants in restive southwestern tribal regions while cracking down mainly on militant groups that target Pakistan's own citizens.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters