Washington, May 18 (PTI) Pakistan seeks to maintain positive relations with the Taliban as it views the hardline Islamist militant group as a “strategic asset” useful for securing its interests in Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official has told US lawmakers.
Lt Gen Scott Berrier, Director, Defence Intelligence Agency told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a recent Congressional hearing that Pakistan currently views instability in Afghanistan as its most pressing concern and will likely prioritise preventing its spillover into Pakistan in the next year and beyond.
“Although Pakistan has not formally recognised the Taliban, Islamabad seeks to maintain positive relations with them, and it is providing humanitarian assistance, international outreach, and technical support to achieve this,” Berrier said.
“Pakistan views the Taliban as a strategic asset, useful for securing its interests in Afghanistan. However, Islamabad’s ability to shape Taliban behaviour will probably diminish because the group no longer relies on its safe havens in Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan remains vulnerable to attacks by a variety of anti-Pakistan militant groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ISIS-K, and Baloch separatists, he said.
Pakistan’s military continues to execute operations against these militant groups and remains concerned about their ability to conduct small-scale attacks and occasional high-profile attacks inside the country, he said.
“Since 2020, TTP has consolidated factions and increased its attack tempo. In November 2021, TTP agreed to a one-month ceasefire with Pakistan but announced it would not extend it further due to perceived Pakistani violations of the terms of the agreement. Fighting resumed in early December 2021, with dozens of deadly attacks, and probably will persist,” he added.
A Pakistani delegation led by a former ISI chief Faiz Hameed reportedly held talks in Afghanistan with the representatives of the banned terror group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) involved in scores of deadly attacks on Pakistani security forces, according to a media report from Islamabad on Tuesday.
However, there was no official confirmation from either side about the development but reports suggested that it was part of a renewed push by the Afghan Taliban to broker some kind of a deal between Pakistan and the TTP, The Express Tribune reported quoting Afghan journalists and sources.
Gen Faiz, as head of the ISI, had been instrumental in brokering a deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban. His reported presence in Kabul seems to stem from his close connections with the Afghan Taliban as well as his experience in handling them, the report said. PTI LKJ VN NSA AKJ NSA
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