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Safe Havens of the Insurgency

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As the US is gradually withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, US military officials are concerned about the challenges ahead for Afghanistan’s future stability. According to the reports, General Joseph Dunford, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told a session of US senators that the safe havens of the insurgent groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas, corruption and weak governance is threatening the future stability of Afghanistan. “Insurgency’s sanctuaries in Pakistan, the limited institutional capacity of the Afghan government and endemic corruption remain the greatest impediments to long-term stability and sustainable security in Afghanistan,” Dunford said. However, the US general believes that the insurgents’ capability has been degraded with the US troop surge in 2010.

The remarks suggest that the US military is deeply concerned about insurgents’ safe havens beyond the borders and operation of militant groups in tribal zone of Pakistan. The statements indicate that the Afghan officials and the US military have much in common when it comes to the safe havens of the terrorist groups beyond Afghan borders. President Karzai and other Afghan officials have repeatedly called on US and NATO to focus on the safe havens of terrorism and the insurgent groups beyond the borders, implying Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, particularly North Waziristan. Previously, Afghan president Hamid Karzai had vehemently asked NATO to end fighting in Afghan villages and target the militant’s safe havens in Pakistan.

During the past decade of war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has used North Waziristan as a launchpad of their terrorist attacks on Afghan security forces and the US-NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. The safe havens of Taliban militants, virtually failed the anti-insurgency military operation in Afghanistan and undermined the US-led NATO mission of stabilizing Afghanistan and defeating the extremist groups. As US commanders are concerned, the Haqqani network would remain capable of attacking Afghanistan in the coming years. This would weaken the peace process and the reintegration of the insurgents into the society.

The Haqqani-Taliban threat which stems from the Tribal areas of Pakistan is of more concerns when there is no assurance of a change of policy in Islamabad to the conflict in Afghanistan and whether Pakistan and Afghanistan would cooperate to fight the common threat of the insurgencies in both countries. Recently, the gulf between Kabul and Islamabad has been widening and the two sides increasingly find it difficult to work together for peace in Afghanistan. Afghan officials believe that Pakistan is not sincere in the efforts for peace in Afghanistan and put forward some ‘unacceptable preconditions’ for its cooperation in persuading the militants to come to the negotiation table.

The prospect of regional cooperation on fighting terrorism is uncertain as there is no lasting confidence between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As US commanders are concerned, safe havens of the militant groups in northwestern Pakistan threaten stability of Afghanistan. But, it is also a threat to the security of Pakistan itself and the Pakistanis acknowledge this. For stablility in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the key is bilateral cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad to effectively cope with the militancy in the region.

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