US senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services John McCain has urged US, Pakistan and Afghanistan to get down to the business of fighting their common terrorist enemies together, and has stressed Pakistan to target all terrorist groups operating on its soil.
Writing in the Financial Times, McCain discussed his latest visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The senator lauded Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism, saying that Operation Zarb-e-Azb led to security improvements in the country.
However, he pointed out that the operation did not eliminate every terrorist haven nor did it catch every terrorist and it would require years of follow-up to secure the gains it had achieved.
The US senator urged Pakistan to target all terrorist groups. “For its part, Pakistan must take on and eliminate havens for terrorist groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad that operate within its borders, attack its neighbours and kill US forces.”
McCain said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the army chief of staff General Raheel Sharif had made recent commitments to do just that. However, he added that following through on these is critical. “This will be difficult for Pakistan. It will require political will and entail costly sacrifice in blood and treasure. That is why there will be sceptics in the country opposed to decisive efforts to defeat extremism.”
“Pakistan has the opportunity to prove the sceptics wrong again by taking on terrorist groups that target Afghan, Indian and US forces in the region with the same energy with which it has prosecuted the fight against the Pakistani Taliban. By taking on all terrorist groups operating in its territory, Pakistan will find that the US remains willing and able to assist in this fight and develop an enduring strategic partnership.”
Speaking about the recent strained relationship between US and Pakistan, McCain said, “Among other things, limitations on US assistance to Pakistan and congressional reluctance to approve subsidies for the sale of defence articles have added to tensions between the two governments. Despite this and other recent difficulties, US and Pakistani leaders cannot allow ambivalence and suspicion to fester. Common interests in counterterrorism, nuclear security and regional stability are too important and too urgent.”
He went on to say, “For too long, the US has viewed the bilateral relationship only through the prism of Afghanistan. To achieve real progress, the US must make clear its enduring commitment to Pakistan’s stability and economic growth.”
According to him, the US mission in Afghanistan is immeasurably more difficult without Pakistan’s co-operation in taking on terrorists that operate across the Afghan-Pakistani border at will. “That is why enhanced co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is essential. Likewise, the strategic imperative for improved relations between the US and Pakistan is clear — for the safety of American troops and the success of their mission in Afghanistan, for the stability of the region and for the national security of both Pakistan and the US.”
He also credited PM Sharif and Gen Raheel Sharif on successfully taking on terrorists after the APS attack. “Thanks to these efforts, the perpetrator of the Peshawar school attack is no longer a threat to Pakistan or any other country.”
He also wrote about his visit to North Waziristan, “During my visit to Miramshah in North Waziristan, I saw the city’s bazaar that once housed bomb-making factories, arms dealers and office fronts for terrorist groups. Thanks to the actions of Pakistani soldiers, this death market is no more. Now the military is building roads, border posts, schools and healthcare facilities across North Waziristan, a recognition that the failure to focus on economic development in the tribal areas in previous decades was a profound mistake.”
He said the Zarb-e-Azb operation shut down bomb-making factories and tunnel networks that menaced Afghanistan. “And it displaced militants, many of whom fled into the crosshairs of US and Afghan forces ready and waiting on the other side of the border.”
This article originally appeared on Financial Times.