Stakes are higher in Afghanistan: Lawmakers
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): If the US does not leave behind a stable Afghan government, the Taliban are likely reclaim their lost territory and quickly establish another safe haven, a top American lawmaker warned on Wednesday.
“The stakes are even higher in Afghanistan. If we do not leave behind a stable, strong Afghan government with capable security forces, the Taliban will not hesitate to reclaim its lost territory and quickly establish another safe haven for terrorists to thrive,” Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen said during a Congressional hearing.
She said even though the US had closed its combat command, President Obama had reportedly changed the rules of engagement so that all remaining troops would be allowed to carry out combat missions instead of just training and advising Afghans.
Combat aircraft drones would be allowed to provide air support, she said, adding President Ghani was pleading with the administration for additional troops and funds to ensure that his country did not become another Iraq.
Ros-Lehtinen said as the US began its transition out of the lead last year, the Taliban and an abundance of other terrorist groups and factions across the country have stepped up their attacks. The rate of attacks are only likely to increase now that they know that the U.S. and its allies have ended combat operations, she said.
“But terrorists inside Afghanistan's borders are not its only challenge. Pakistan continues to harbor and host insurgents and other extremists in the Afghan border regions. Making matters worse, Pakistan's intelligence service is known to cooperate with the Taliban as it works to undermine Afghanistan's stability,” Ros-Lehtinen alleged.
Congressman Ted Deutch said US lawmakers continue to have long-standing concerns over the ability of insurgents to operate in Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan.
“I've been encouraged by Pakistan's military operations in North Waziristan. Even the most skeptical among us have to acknowledge that it has disrupted operations emanating from the North Waziristan agency, especially for the Pakistani Taliban. At the same time, while progress has been made in disrupting insurgent s operations in tribal areas, both Haqqani network and Lakshar-i-Taiba are responsible for the deaths of Americans, he said.
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