Pakistan objects to Pentagon report that mentions jihadist sanctuaries, use of terrorist proxies

Yesterday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement protesting the US Department of Defense’s biannual report titled “Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” In the report, dated October of this year, the DoD notes that Pakistan continues to serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and other jihadist groups and that the Pakistani government often uses some terrorist organizations as proxies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement is reproduced below, in full:

The Government of Pakistan takes serious exception to comments contained in the US Department of Defence report sent to the Congress under the title “Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan”. While noting Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in areas of mutual interests, the recently-released report also carries unsubstantiated allegations of the existence of terrorist “sanctuaries” or that proxy forces are operating from here against Afghanistan and India. Pakistan’s protest over these unwarranted comments was conveyed by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz to the US Ambassador Richard Olson at the Foreign Ministry today.

Such allegations are of particular concern at this point when Pakistan government has launched comprehensive operations against militants in North Waziristan. The military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ has been broadly welcomed internationally, including in the U.S. The operation has successfully eliminated terrorist hideouts and is directed against all militants, without any distinction. We therefore hope that the issues will be seen in their correct perspective.

This is what the Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan report stated about Pakistan [emphasis mine]:

The Haqqani Network remained the most potent strain of the insurgency and the greatest risk to U.S. and coalition forces due to its focus on high-profile attacks. The Haqqani Network and affiliated groups share the goals of expelling U.S. and coalition forces, destabilizing the Afghan government, and reestablishing an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They will likely remain the most significant threat to coalition forces in the post-2014 non-combat mission, especially if they are not denied sanctuary in Pakistan.


Nonetheless, Afghan-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. During this reporting period, however, ongoing Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan disrupted militant networks that relied on this area for safe haven and slowed extremist attack plotting in Afghanistan. Senior Pakistani officials have publicly committed to holding this cleared territory, preventing militant returns, and building a more cooperative relationship with Afghan counterparts along the border.

This is the section that must have really upset the Pakistani government:

The United States continues to seek a constructive relationship with Pakistan that advances both U.S. and Pakistani interests. Pakistan’s relationship with the United States remains constructive, and both nations continue to acknowledge the importance of maintaining bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual concern and engaging on areas of divergence. Taliban attacks in Afghanistan launched from sanctuaries in Pakistan remain a serious problem. These sanctuaries exist primarily in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan.

Pakistan and the United States cooperate on areas of mutual interest, including providing essential support to U.S. retrograde operations [withdrawal] from Afghanistan. In addition, Pakistan continues to cooperate with the United States on some CT [counter-terrorism] activities. Pakistan’s military made gains against the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and foreign fighters in the FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during a major military operation. Afghan- and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military. These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation. Such groups continue to act as the primary irritant in Afghan- Pakistan bilateral relations.

To summarize, the Pakistani government dislikes the fact that the US is pointing out what the entire world knows:

1) The Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (North and South Waziristan, etc.) remain a sanctuary for jihadist groups despite Pakistani military operations.

2) The Pakistani military and government continue to use jihadist groups as strategic depth against India as well as the US.

I would argue that the Pakistani government would have been better served ignoring the report altogether rather than drawing attention to it. In fact, the report is quite soft on Pakistan and its duplicity in supporting jihadist groups. If you knew nothing about Pakistan and read this report, you’d think that there is a jihadist problem in the FATA and the Pakistani establishment is backing some militant elements to hedge against India but the problem is manageable.

The reality is, however, that the problem in Pakistan remains far, far greater than that portrayed in the DoD report on Afghanistan. For instance, the report ignores the fact that the Afghan Taliban have a massive safe haven in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province that is used to support the group’s operations in southern, eastern, central, and western Afghanistan. Training camps, recruiting centers, and support nodes are strewn throughout Baluchistan, particularly in districts that border Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban’s governing body is called the Quetta Shura because it has been based in the provincial capital of Quetta. The Quetta Shura is said to have relocated to Karachi in Sindh province at some point over the past several years. But the Taliban maintain a significant presence in Quetta regardless.

Furthermore, the report doesn’t note that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that has a pervasive presence throughout the country, is backed by Pakistan’s elites. Lashkar-e-Taiba runs a massive complex at Muridke near Lahore that is used to train its operatives. Despite the fact that the jihadist group executed the 2008 assault in Mumbai, it is permitted to operate openly within Pakistan. Its members are above the law, such as it exists.

An alphabet soup of jihadist groups — Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, etc. — have a presence throughout the country and also operate with either the direct support or permission of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. All of these groups are allied with al Qaeda, and some likely have joined the group’s newest affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.

In addition, the Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan isn’t “directed against all militants, without any distinction,” as the Pakistani government claims. The military has targeted the “bad Taliban,” jihadist groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, while ignoring the “good Taliban” such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group. The former are “bad” because they wage jihad against the state, and the latter are “good” because they wage jihad against the US, Afghanistan, and India.

These examples barely scratch the surface when it comes to Pakistan and its complicity in supporting terrorist groups. As noted earlier, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have been better off ignoring the report rather than reminding people about the country’s role in supporting the international jihad.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Jake says:

    Pakistan should grow up and get over it.
    If & When the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan, they can ensure Pakistan is at war by doing nothing.
    All of the chauvanist Pakistanis will have gotten their just deserts.
    We leave Afghanistan and the American subsidies stop. Pakistan will have to tighten their belt, liberalize their economy or find a new sow. Maybe there will ask for money from Saudi Arabia.
    I think the Pakistanis better stock up on iodine tablets.

  • Aslam says:

    Hmmm…the problem with US statement is not that it is pointing out what is wrong with Pakistan but the real issue is that the statement is not fully transparent. The statement does not acknowledge the numerous embassies that India has along the Balochistan border. The numerous proxy activities India is involved in for destabilizing Pakistan and especially Balochistan. It is like reprimanding only one party but saying nothing about the other.

  • Jake says:

    Pakistan saying the report made “unsubstantiated claims” in regards to there being Taliban and jihadist sanctuaries on Pakistani soil is a poor decision. There is a large amount of reporting and intelligence that clearly identify regions throughout the FATA (such as the Wazirstans and Peshawar) and Quetta as being safe havens and logistical hubs for the Afghan Taliban/jihadist groups over the past decade (and even longer if you count the years fighting the Russians). As Bill said, Pakistan only makes itself look worse by trying to deny it.
    Pakistani security analysts would be wise to consider changing their mindset because their current tactics are not helping them achieve a more secure Pakistan. Why not befriend the new Afghan government or pressure their current friends, the Afghan Taliban, to work out a framework for peace. The Afghan Taliban could transform from a military force into a purely political one, and if the Taliban won’t consent to a western style democracy, the Afghans can decide who they want to run their country through their traditional jirga process (which isn’t vastly different from a representative democracy to be honest). Pakistan’s current policies are doing nothing but prolonging war on their border, and it will only further destabilize their own security.
    Much can be said for the US as well. Let’s be honest, the past strategies used in the “War on Terror” appear to be failures (the number of jihadists worldwide has increased since 9/11), and we need to clearly define our goals and decide whether we want to continue to fight an international, ideological battle against religious extremists or increase America’s security. Because we’re not likely going to be able to do both without decades more of fighting.
    The US should consider not keeping troops in Afghanistan if it will bring the Afghan Taliban to the peace table. The US’s primary security interest is that Afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary for AQ and its kin, allowing them to train, plan, and execute attacks against Western nations. If the Taliban can agree to that, which they have already proclaimed their willingness to do in some of their public announcements (though the wording has been somewhat questionable), then America should consider taking a calculated risk in trusting them. There is a chance for peace to be brokered between the new government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. This option should be explored before mistrust on both sides becomes too ingrained. I’d rather see a more moderate Taliban in power in Afghanistan as opposed to something akin to ISIS.
    Else, it is most likely going to be another 10 years of war, if not more, because it is highly unlikely that the Taliban will ever agree to a peace as long as there are foreign soldiers in Afghanistan. Pashtuns are notoriously stubborn, and they have already proved that they can endure. The decision to keep our troops there and prolong the war, with the fool’s hope that the current Afghan government will win out and/or the Taliban will eventually give up while foreign troops are present, is a decision I feel will ultimately further decrease our country’s prosperity and security in the coming decades (much like the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003).

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    Let the Pakistanis produce crocodile tears over this report. If the US threatens sanctions against Pakistan on their support for islamic terrorists against the Afghans and Indians, then believe me, it would push the Pakistanis to curb their support for these people. A stick against Pakistan is needed and not simply a carrot with a stick !!

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    Your deluded Pakistani ISI who have effectively murdered many media people have forced Pakistani television channels to broadcast conspiracy theories of numerous Indian embassies in Afghanistan training terrorists against Pakistan. Are you that stupid to believe a non-muslim country like India would support islamic terrorists who hate India more than Pakistan. It’s a bit like saying Obama pays money to the KKK to fight against the Republicans. No sane person believes the crap the Pakistanis say. That is proof in this Pentagon Report, which tells the truth of Pakistan trying to destabilize the region with frankenstein islamic terrorists.

  • blert says:

    Yours is a widely accepted conventional wisdom — at least in Washington, certainly the White House.
    But the very nature of Afghanistan’s internal divisions means that there can be no war ending peace.
    The fundamental problem is the MAP. As long as the factions believe they should sit in the big chair — defending their own turf and ruling their lessers — their conflict will never, ever, end.
    Bush should’ve broken that ‘country’ up back in 2002. It’s not a nation in a European sense at all, more like the leavings between the Russians and the British back in the 19th Century.
    There can never be a stable Afghan National Army — since no Afghan is really willing to serve far from home… ie even forty-miles down the road. This is why desertion/ turn-over is sky high in the ANA.
    This is compounded by massive language and cultural divides. The ANA needs interpreters even inside its own lands. (!)
    The obvious solution: split off the Oxus river valley (up north) and give it over to Afghanistan’s northern neighbors, side by side across the river.
    Link them by railroad. ( Currently underway )
    Remove all northern boys from the ANA — which is to become Pashtun. Link all of the Pastun lands to Pakistan by railroad. (Kyber pass)
    Hand off the north west corner to Iran, its cultural and sectarian partner.
    Link them by railroad. ( Iran has been pushing this for years )
    Good fences make for good neighbors. The center of Afghanistan is one huge (mountainous) fence.
    Pakistan’s ISI is the ultimate sponsor of AQ, and always has been. OBL’s safe house is quite the ‘tell.’
    So denying Afghanistan to AQ is functionally meaningless.
    Building railroads into Afghanistan is much wiser than any other spending. With railroads, mineral extraction becomes viable — and Afghanistan is a miner’s paradise.
    The terrain of Afghanistan will always limit railroads to mere spurs ending at major cities. Then truckers will take goods the remaining distance.
    It may be best for all concerned if Pakistan absorbs Pashtunistan… or maybe not. Even now, Pashtuns dominate the FATA. If Iran and Pakistan were the sovereign authorities AQ would no longer be quite the same problem. It would lose its proxy status.
    As it stands, both Pakistan and Iran can, and have, denied any responsibility for AQ, its players, or providing financial support/ money passage.
    Breaking up this non-nation would truly end the conflict. Iran and Pakistan would shut down any cross-border raids/ fighting.
    Any other scheme permits this proxy playground to endure.

  • orangbiasaji says:

    Pakistani security analysts would be wise to consider changing their mindset because their current tactics are not helping them achieve a more secure Pakistan. Why not befriend the new Afghan government or pressure their current friends, the Afghan Taliban, to work out a framework for peace.

  • PK Jharkhand says:

    Pakistan is the kingdom of conspiracy theorists. All Pakistanis believe sincerely that nothing is as it seems. 9/11? USA and Israel did it. Attacks inside the country by islamic fundamentalist terrorists? India did it. However not a single Pakistani will acuse Osama Bin Laden of being in the pay of India. How do they all know he was not in India’s pay? Why do they all universally admire this mass killer?
    Why did they not suspect that the high walled strange secure compound next to their top military academy where OBL was hiding for five years was not a bed of Indian spies? Especially when they see Indian spies under every bed? Answer – They Knew.

  • Jake says:

    What you propose makes a lot of sense. I have thought along those line as well.
    I was never quite sure what to do with the Hazaras. I do not think they would do well attached to Pakistan. They are not Tajiks. Would they be attached to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or be their own “small Eastern European like country”?
    Did not know or give much thought of the railroads. Most articles concentrate on the road, airports and hydro power plants . But you have always been much too smart, which is why I make a point of reading your posts and wondering, who you are.


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