Pakistan – in US terror spotlight

By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) August 10, 2017
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


The US has listed Pakistan among the nations providing "safe havens" to terrorists, saying terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and JeM continued to operate, train, organize and fundraise inside the country. This is a full year after the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) in its July 2016 had reported that bulk of casualties in Afghanistan were caused by Taliban, LeT, JeM, Hezb-e-Islami, IMU, IS and others. In its annual 'Country Report on Terrorism' released on 19 July 2017, the US State Department stated: Mumbai attack mastermind and UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed continued to address large rallies despite being proscribed under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act; despite LeT being banned, LeT's wings Jamaat- ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) were able to openly engage in fundraising, including in the capital; the 2015 ban on media coverage of Saeed, JuD, and FiF continues but LeT chief Saeed continued to address large rallies; Pakistan was listed as one of the safe havens of terrorism with numerous terrorist groups, including Haqqani Network (HQN), LeT and JeM continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2016; Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or Haqqani, or substantially limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan; Pakistan did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups like , such as LeT and JeM in 2016, which continued to operate, train, organize, and fundraise in Pakistan; Haqqani network has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan. The report also talked of several terrorist attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan and in India, latter from Maoist insurgents and Pakistan-based terrorists.

It also mentioned cross-border attacks in J&K. terrorist attack at the IAF base in Pathankot blamed by India on JeM, deepening counterterrorism cooperation and information sharing between India and the US and the Indian government continuing to closely monitor the domestic threat from transnational terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). It also mentioned that in 2016, India and the US pledged to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including al-Qaeda, the ISIS, JeM, LeT and D-Company (Dawood Ibrahim's group), including through greater collaboration on designations at the UN. The US and India worked together to designate JeM leader Maulana Masood Azhar, although the listing was blocked in the UN 1267 Committee.

It may be recalled that US sanctioned Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) chief Syed Salahuddin and branded him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to the US. But the branding of Salahuddin as SDGT is also to do with the US targeting HM's ideological ally; the US based Muslims of America Organization (MOA) that supports Kashmiri terrorist groups. Most significantly, US has replaced the term India-administered Kashmir with Jammu and Kashmir in its order designating Syed Salahuddin as SDGT, which indicates the US acknowledges J&K as one entity. For too long successive US administrations have ignored Pakistani terrorism despite US casualties under the utopia that Pakistan will not join the Chinese camp, which Pakistan not only has but is China's North Korea 2.0. India's consistent diplomatic efforts and PM Modi's personal initiatives have helped the US and many other nations realize that Pakistan is indeed a hatchery of terrorism. In June 2017, a bipartisan bill was tabled in the US House of Representatives by Republican Congressmen Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Riick Nolan to revoke Pakistan's non-NATO ally status. The legislation calls for revoking MNNA status of Pakistan, which was granted to it in 2004 by the then President, George Bush, in an effort to get the country to help the US fight al-Qaida and Taliban. Ted Poe, who is also member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Sub Committee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade stated during the motion, "Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands.

For years, Pakistan has acted as a Benedict Arnold ally of the US. From harbouring Osama bin laden to backing the Taliban, Pakistan has stubbornly refused to go after, in any meaningful way, terrorists that actively seek to harm opposing ideologies. We must make a clean break with Pakistan, but at the very least, we should stop providing them the eligibility to obtain our own sophisticated weaponry in an expedited process granting them a privileged status reserved for our closest allies." More recently, US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster accused Pakistan of assisting militants, ascribing these remarks to the opinion of President Donald Trump saying that the President made clear need for Pakistan to change behavior from providing safe haven and support bases for Taliban, Haqqani Network and others. However, revoking Pakistan's MNNA status and sending additional troops to Afghanistan will unlikely make any difference to Pakistan that is cocking a snoot at the US through massive public rallies by terrorist mullahs like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin. The China-Pakistan-North Korea axis is the most dangerous to the world, Pakistan being bigger threat than North Korea.

US officials in the past queried if US is expected to attack a nuclear armed Pakistan. The answer is yes and no – yes for attack in hybrid form in conjunction strategic partners and allies, no for exclusive conventional. The Atlantic Council of US has already urged the Trump administration through a policy paper saying, "Given the advancements that China has made both economically and militarily, the US will need to channel considerable resources to assert its global and regional primacy." Given that the US is past master in hybrid warfare, the China-Pakistan combine will need to be addressed covertly, consistently and effectively in a manner that doesn't affect US economy.