Call to target Haqqani sanctuaries in Pakistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): Recommending a post-2104 presence of 20,000 US troops in Afghanistan, a former Pentagon general on Thursday called for targeting Taliban and Haqqani leaders in their Pakistani sanctuaries.
The post 2014 residual force and attacking terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, along with funding of the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF), would not only reduce the risk level, but also would result in peace and stability, Gen (R) John M Keane told lawmakers.
While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Keane asked the US and NATO countries to fund the ANSF at the current 352,000 strength until 2020. At some point, the Afghans would be in a position to contribute to the funding level, he hoped.
Observing the size of the residual force should be driven by the missions that are required, he said those objectives were counterterrorism (CT), training and assistance and enablers to the ANSF. He recommended 7,000 counterterrorism troops, 5,000 trainers and advisors and 8,000 enablers; making a total of 20,000.
“A third key decision to reduce the risk is to authorise targeting of the Taliban and Haqqani leaders in the sanctuaries in Pakistan. Priority is to the Haqqani sanctuary because the security situation in the east is not as stable as the south,” Keane maintained.
“This would be an extension of the mission against the Al Qaeda in FATA. Once systematic targeting commences, the sanctuary will cease to exist as we currently know it; a place where strategy, training, operational oversight, intelligence and logistics is executed, routinely, in safe haven…”
In her remarks, Michele Flournoy, the former undersecretary for Policy at the Department of Defense, believed the US could still achieve its strategic objectives in Afghanistan if it maintained and adequately resourced its current policy course and if its Afghan partners did their part, including by successfully navigating the goals of the presidential election and transition.
“This judgment is based on the impressive progress of the Afghan security forces, the significant strides made in areas such as agriculture, health and education, and the promising next generation of Afghans who are poised to gain greater influence over their country`s future,” Flournoy said.
Ronald E Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, noted the April 2014 Afghan» presidential election would be crucial to success.
“We should be pressing Pakistan to reinforce the border, planning for election observers, instituting a brief increase in air support to increase Afghan ability to secure the vote, and publicising our support for election training. We should also be clear on consequences if the electoral calendar is significantly breached or the election is disastrously mishandled,” Neumann concluded.
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