WASHINGTON: The United States has ruled out any plan to cross the international border in chasing the Taliban or any other terrorist group who flee Afghanistan.
“To be clear, US military authorities are within the borders of Afghanistan only. We have no authority to go into Pakistan. If there is a way to get that authority, but that would certainly be the exception and not the norm,” Afghan news agency Pajhwok cited spokesperson for the Department of Defense as saying.
“Say, for example, we have troops in contact and then the Taliban forces go across the border. They are clearly inside Pakistan then. There’s no change with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan,” Lt Col Mike Andrews reportedly told the wire service. He reiterated they would not be going into Pakistan. “There could be exceptions to that. It was not going to be normal day-to-day operational rules of engagement that US commanders on the ground knew,” the spokesperson added.
Getting back the provinces that the Taliban claimed or contested would be the focus of the Afghan forces this year, he said, adding there was enough work to be done inside Afghanistan to reduce their influence and to provide more security and stability to Afghans. “And what happens in Pakistan, we can’t have any control on that. I certainly think that in the east, in the southeast, we have more, whether it’s close air support, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. We have certainly put more combat enablers there to limit the effect of those groups. But that’s something within Pakistan, that’s something the nation of Pakistan has got to resolve. Now we’re going to stay focused on Afghanistan,” Andrews said in response to a question.
The US expected Pakistan to take steps to ensure there were no sanctuaries where Taliban or other terrorist organisations could reside and where they felt, he said. “That’s something that Pakistan is going to have to do.”
Col Andrews also said that the US would not resume its security aid to Pakistan until Islamabad addresses Washington’s concerns over alleged terrorist safe havens within its borders. He said the focus of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis trip to Afghanistan last week was to review progress on the South Asia policy and see the preparedness of the Afghan security forces for the upcoming fighting season. “We are hopeful Pakistan will take action because not only do we feel it is going to serve Afghanistan, but it’s going to help protect Pakistan, India and the entire region,” he pointed out.