Pakistan is using Taliban as a shield against India instead of facilitating talks between the organisation and the Afghanistan government, the person nominated to command all United States troops in West Asia said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr said this in written responses to questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for commander of the US Central Command.
This came just days after United States President Donald Trump asked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for help to find a peaceful resolution to the 17-year-long Afghan war. Trump, in his letter to Khan “recognises that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory” a spokesperson of the National Security Council, White House, told PTI a day earlier. “The letter also makes it clear that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership.”
“Pakistan is an essential element in long-term stability in Afghanistan,” McKenzie told senators on Tuesday, adding that Islamabad could play a “key role” in facilitating talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. “I would welcome that development. At this time, however, Pakistan does not appear to be using the full extent of its influence to encourage the Taliban to come to the table.”
He added: “We continue to see the Taliban being utilised as a hedge against India rather than as part of a stable, reconciled Afghanistan.”
There has been not much of a change in Pakistan’s behaviour towards Afghanistan or terrorist organisations despite its “positive rhetoric” in support of the South Asia Strategy, McKenzie said. Several violent extremist organisation operate along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, he added.
“Taking concrete steps that deny VEO [violent extremist organisations] safe havens in Pakistan, as well as VEO freedom of movement from Pakistan to Afghanistan, remains an important ask that Pakistan needs to fulfil,” McKenzie said. “Pakistan must leverage their influence over the Taliban leadership to help compel them to come to the table for reconciliation negotiations.”