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Pakistan continues to use Afghan Taliban as hedge against India: US commander

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

continues to use Afghan as a hedge against India, a top American has told lawmakers, as he expressed the US frustration over Islamabad's failure to take concrete steps to deny safe havens to terrorist groups.

Marine Corps Lt Genenral Kenneth McKenzie's remarks came days after US sought Imran Khan's help in the Afghan peace process.

The Trump administration, in the recent months, has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America's longest war in where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The are fighting to flush out US-led international forces and re-establish their regime in after their ouster in 2001.

"is an essential element in long-term stability in Afghanistan," McKenzie told members of the Tuesday during his confirmation hearing for of the (CENTCOM).

Pakistan could play a key role in facilitating talks between the and government of Afghanistan, he said.

"Pakistan does not appear to be using the full extent of its influence to encourage the Taliban to come to the table," he said.

"We continue to see the Taliban being utilised as a hedge against rather than as part of a stable, reconciled Afghanistan," McKenzie said.

His answers to the come after it became public that Trump has written a letter to Imran Khan, seeking his help in the Afghan peace process.

"Trump sent a letter to Khan, requesting Pakistan's full support to the US-led Afghan peace process and Special Representative for Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's upcoming trip to the region," a of the National Security Council, White House, told

"In the letter, the recognises that Pakistan has the ability to deny the on its territory," the said.

"The letter also makes it clear that Pakistan's assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership," the said.

McKenzie told lawmakers that he did not see much of a change in Pakistan's behaviour towards Afghanistan or its stand against terrorist groups.

Despite Pakistan's positive rhetoric in support of the US' Strategy, violent extremist organisations (VEOs) operate along its border with Afghanistan, he said.

"While Pakistan has conducted some operations against VEOs in the country, they must continue to expand these operations and remain aggressively engaged," McKenzie said.

"Taking concrete steps that deny VEO safe havens in Pakistan, as well as VEO freedom of movement from Pakistan to Afghanistan, remains an important task that Pakistan needs to fulfil. Pakistan must leverage their influence over the Taliban leadership to help compel them to come to the table for reconciliation negotiations," he added.

McKenzie said the US CENTCOM would continue to support the State Department as it works towards a to the conflict in Afghanistan which includes ensuring that Islamabad's equities are acknowledged in any future agreement.

"Pakistan's action or inaction, as it relates to stability in Afghanistan, has often led to US's frustration," he said, adding that stability in the region remains the most important mutual strategic interest for both the US and Pakistan.

"We must continue to engage with the Pakistani leadership to realise how we can achieve this mutual interest," McKenzie said.

"I do believe that any solution in Afghanistan is going to require the assistance of Pakistan. It has to be a regional solution, not just a solution centred in Afghanistan," he said.

It is in Pakistan's long-term interest to have a government in Afghanistan that is stable, and that that they can do business with, he said.

"So I think Pakistan has not shown indications, by and large over the last few years, of being a serious partner in this regard," McKenzie said.

US on Tuesday met Pakistan in McKenzie said that the meeting was to see if the US can find some way forward. It will be hard to reach a settlement without some form of assistance or Pakistan.

"Probably Pakistan knows very clearly that their assistance will be required to reach an end-state in Afghanistan. I think the task that we have is to make it attractive to them so that they see that it is in their best interest to do that, McKenzie said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, December 05 2018. 12:05 IST