WASHINGTON: The top US general in Afghanistan General John Nicholson said on Tuesday that he had not seen a change in Pakistan’s support for militants so far, despite President Donald Trump taking a tougher line against Islamabad.
He also claimed that though the Taliban’s tactical-level commanders were in the field in Afghanistan, its senior leadership still resided in Pakistan, reported an international media outlet.
It further reported him as saying that Taliban leaders are living comfortably outside Afghanistan with plenty of drug money while the rank and file fighters are dying in Afghanistan.
The media outlet further wrote that US officials have long been frustrated by what they see as Pakistan’s reluctance to act against groups such as Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that they believe exploit safe haven on Pakistani soil to launch attacks on neighbouring Afghanistan.
In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants. He accused Pakistan of harbouring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against a US-backed government in Kabul.
Pakistan has denied all such claims.
US officials expressed hope that relations between the two countries could improve after a US-Canadian couple and their three children, kidnapped in Afghanistan, were freed in Pakistan in October.
“We have been very direct and very clear with the Pakistanis… we have not seen those changes implemented yet,” General Nicholson told reporters.
“We are hoping to see those changes, we are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing the border,” Nicholson said.
He said that he believed senior Taliban leaders were based in Pakistan, while the lower-level leadership was in Afghanistan.
The US in 2012 designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation. Pakistan says it has done a great deal to help the US in tracking down terrorists.
The four-star general said he had seen evidence of relations between Iran and the Taliban in western Afghanistan and was closely tracking it.
The US has sent more than 3,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan as a part of Trump’s South Asia strategy. Nicholson said over 1,000 troops would be advising Afghan troops at the battalion level, putting them closer to the fighting and at greater risk.
Nicholson gave an optimistic view of the situation, saying he believed “we are on our way to a win.”
US officials have made similar statements during the course of the 16-year-old war, but the situation according to many US officials remains in a “stalemate.”
According to a recent report by a US government watchdog, the Taliban had increased the amount of territory it has influence over or controls in Afghanistan in the past six months.
The figures are a sign of the deteriorating security situation in the war-torn country, even as the US has committed more troops.