CENTCOM Commander General Votel says terrorist organisations based in Afghanistan conduct attacks inside Pakistan
United States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Joseph Votel said that terrorist organisations based in Afghanistan conduct attacks inside Pakistan and “continue to threaten Afghan stability as well as stoke tensions between Pakistan and India”.
In a briefing to the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, General Votel said the US was looking to all regional actors “to cease behavior undermining regional stability and play constructive roles in achieving peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole of South Asia.”
He said cross-border attacks by violent extremist organisations (VEOs) fuelled instability and generated tension along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Appreciating Islamabad’s efforts for regional peace, the US general said Pakistan has taken “positive steps to assist Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in support of Afghanistan reconciliation by facilitating talks with the Taliban”.
However, he also spoke of the US requisite for more “concrete or irreversible steps such as arresting or expelling Taliban leaders who do not cooperate with reconciliation efforts”.
“If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfill that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan.”
‘Pakistan always a country of importance’
The top US commander in the region said that while the suspension of US security assistance funds to Pakistan remain in place, some continuing US-Pakistan military cooperation activities have demonstrated “the importance of military cooperation, despite challenges in the bilateral relationship”.
“Pakistan presents the US with challenges and opportunities in the execution of our South Asia Strategy. As a state possessing nuclear weapons that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and US geopolitical interests, Pakistan will always be a country of importance to the US,” said General Votel.
“Our posture with Pakistan involves supporting our colleagues at the Department of State as they pursue a diplomatic solution with Islamabad to end the conflict in Afghanistan, while ensuring that Pakistan’s equities are acknowledged and addressed in any future agreement.”
China’s masked objectives
The US general also spoke on Beijing’s rising influence in South Asia and highlighted Pakistan’s role in the process. “China is already partnering with Pakistan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a central piece of China’s One Belt – One Road initiative. China financed and gained access to the Gwadar Port enabling access to the Arabian Sea.”
“For China, economic power is the primary tool, and while many One Belt – One Road projects do not pose direct threats to US national interests, burgeoning Chinese economic power could support and mask longer-term military and political objectives.”
General Votel stated that Central and South Asia cooperation between Washington and Beijing “offers opportunities for peaceful dialogue and a chance for the US to balance China’s economic rise and reinforce its commitment to global norms for the benefit all.”