US Army general blames Pakistan for backing Afghan Taliban; Islamabad hits back

Islamabad: Pakistan's leadership has slammed the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John W Nicholson, a day after he claimed that Washington "knows the Afghan Taliban leadership is in Quetta and Peshawar".

Turning the tables, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn newspaper that the "Taliban were using Afghanistan as the launch pad for their operations, both inside and outside Pakistan".

He said the Taliban had no need to hide in Pakistan, since they held more than 40 percent of Afghanistan, the daily reported on Monday.

 US Army general blames Pakistan for backing Afghan Taliban; Islamabad hits back

Representational image. Reuters

"If they have control over so much land and resources in Afghanistan, it means they have hideouts there, not in Pakistan," Iqbal said.

Nicholson told Kabul's Tolo News on Saturday that Washington was aware of the Afghan Taliban leadership's presence in the two Pakistani cities, adding that the US military would continue to put pressure on Taliban sanctuaries inside and outside Afghanistan.

"The Quetta shura, Peshawar shura — these shuras are identified by cities inside Pakistan. We know Afghan Taliban leaders are in these areas. Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced - (it) has to be stopped," Gen. Nicholson said.

The general's comments elicited a sharp reaction from Islamabad, which has already been fuming over US President Donald Trump's harsh remarks, with government ministers calling upon the US to stop blaming Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan.

Iqbal said Pakistani authorities had been conducting comprehensive security operations in different parts of the country for four years and had cleared a large area, including North Waziristan.

"Pakistan is fully committed to rooting out terrorism and no other country can match us in terms of the number of sacrifices made in the war on terror," he added.

Separately, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the US should refrain from blaming its 16 years of failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan.

"America used Pakistan as its ally, but Pakistan suffered unbearable losses in the war on terror. If the US doesn't trust Pakistan, it should make preparations to repatriate the Afghan refugees Pakistan has been hosting for nearly 35 years," he told Geo News on Sunday.

Asif claimed that over 90 percent of the attacks in Pakistan were carried out from Afghanistan and also said that Afghan soldiers were selling American arms and ammunition to the Taliban, the report said.

Pakistan People's Party spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that both Trump and Gen. Nicholson's statements indicated that the US wanted to blame all its failed policies on Pakistan.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Shireen Mazari said: "So now General Nicholson targets Pakistan again as ground is being readied for attack on Pakistan. Why are we hosting a middle-rank State Department official?" she tweeted, referring to the planned visit of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells.

The visit was postponed at Islamabad's request.

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Updated Date: Aug 28, 2017 15:18:28 IST