Islamabad going off US influence and into China’s orbit in 2019, will become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asia; warns 17 intelligence agencies to Congress
Apprehensive report also claims India- Pakistan relations to remain tense, violence on LoC, severe terror attacks in India. China-India strained contacts will deteriorate further
“Pakistan holds back on cooperation with US, not cracking down on militants, instead trying to appear tougher”: Dan Coats ‘Deceit operation’ may soon; observers
Nation special report
LONDON: The United States have taken further measures to twist arm of Pakistan and to compel to bow down to its demands which Islamabad considers unjustified, unnecessary and unwanted.
According to latest report received from Washington, seventeen US intelligence agencies have warned Congress that Pakistan will continue to slip out of America’s influence and into China’s orbit in 2019, and will become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asian region.
The review is part of an annual report that Director of US National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, underlining worldwide threat assessment of the American intelligence community. The 17 agencies that jointly produced this report include Central Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency.
According to details, in their report on Pakistan, the agencies warned that the country will continue to threaten US interests by “deploying new nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to militants, restricting counterterrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to China”.
The report claimed that Islamabad-backed militant groups will continue to take advantage of their alleged safe haven in Pakistan to “plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests”. The agencies also warned Pakistan’s perception of its “eroding position relative to India, reinforced by endemic economic weakness and domestic security issues, almost certainly will exacerbate long-held fears of isolation and drive Islamabad’s pursuit of actions that run counter to US goals for the region”.
In a brief assessment of Islamabad’s nuclear programme, US intelligence agencies informed Congress that Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons and develop new types, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles.
“These new types of nuclear weapons will introduce new risks for escalation dynamics and security in the region,” the report added. India-Pakistan Tension US agencies also expect relations between India and Pakistan to remain tense, with continued violence on the Line of Control and “the risk of escalation if there is another high profile terrorist attack in India or an uptick in violence on the Line of Control”.
India-China Tension The agencies informed Congress that in 2019, relations between India and China will remain tense and will possibly deteriorate further, despite the negotiated settlement to their three-month border standoff in August.
This “elevates the risk of unintentional escalation”, the report added. Afghanistan The US intelligence community expects the overall situation in Afghanistan to “deteriorate modestly” this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) performance, and chronic financial shortfalls. The agencies warned that the National Unity government in Kabul “probably will struggle” to hold long-delayed parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for July 2018, and to prepare for a presidential election in 2019. “The ANSF probably will maintain control of most major population centres with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centres under continued strain,” the agencies assessed.
The agencies believe that Afghanistan’s economic growth will stagnate at around 2.5 per cent per year, and Kabul will remain reliant on international donors for the great majority of its funding well beyond 2018. Russia US intelligence agencies see Russia as bringing pressure on Central Asia’s leaders to reduce engagement with Washington and support Russian-led economic and security initiatives, and believe that “concerns about [the militant Islamic State group] in Afghanistan will push Moscow to strengthen its security posture in the region”.
Dan Coats warns: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing about worldwide threats on Tuesday that Pakistan is holding back on cooperation with the US while failing to take tougher action against militant groups, Instead, he said, it’s only trying to appear tougher. “Ongoing Pakistani military operations against the Taliban and associated groups probably reflect the desire to appear more proactive and responsive to our requests for more actions against these groups,” Coats said.
But, Coats added crucially, the actions Pakistan has taken to date “do not reflect a significant escalation of pressure against these groups and are unlikely to have a lasting effect.” Coats also told the committee that intelligence agencies believe Islamabad isn’t likely to change its behaviour soon — continuing to slow walk cooperation with the US, while maintaining ties with the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Pakistan “will maintain ties to these militants while restricting counter terrorism cooperation with the United States,” Coats said.
Gen Bajwa Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Tuesday that we are doing our best as the path to regional peace and stability goes through Afghanistan and Pakistan has eliminated terrorist sanctuaries on its soil, and remaining extremist elements are being tracked and targeted in the ongoing Radd-ul-Fasaad operation, he told a high-profile security conference in Kabul. Such elements have taken advantage of the presence of 2.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, he added. Pakistan will not allow anyone to use its soil against another state, and it expects the same from its neighbors, Bajwa said. The conference was organized less than a month after a series of deadly attacks in Kabul, and the subsequent visit of a high-level Afghan delegation to Islamabad. The conference included representatives from the US, NATO, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Bajwa emphasized a collaborative approach to dealing with regional security challenges. He urged persistence, and said Pakistan is ready to play its role. Gen Bajwa said that Pakistan has eliminated all militant sanctuaries from its territory and expects the same to be reciprocated by its neighbours.
The conference was attended by the top US commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson, Commander US Central Command (Centcom) Gen Joseph Votel and the army chiefs of Afghanistan and central Asian republics Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Addressing the conference focusing on how to deal with escalating terrorism in the region, Gen Bajwa said the path to regional peace and stability “passes through Afghanistan”, the ISPR statement said.
The COAS assured the defence officials in attendance that Pakistan does not allow its territory to be used against any other country and “expects the same in reciprocity”. “Collaborative approach and persistence is the answer to all challenges, for which Pakistan is ready to play its part,” Gen Bajwa was quoted as saying. The two-day conference concluded with the agreement to continue cooperation for regional peace and stability. Capt Tom Gresback, spokesman for Nato-led forces, said in a statement the event “afforded leaders the opportunity to meet in person and identify opportunities to protect and promote common interests, specifically pertaining to securing a lasting peace for Afghanistan and stability for the region.”
The high-level conference comes less than a month after a series of deadly attacks rattled Kabul, following which a highlevel delegation from Afghanistan comprising the interior minister and spy chief had visited Islamabad with a ‘personal message’ from President Ashraf Ghani. The delegation held talks with Pakistani leadership on security cooperation amid the highly volatile security situation in their country.
Afghan officials had said that the delegation handed over to Islamabad “undeniable” evidence which claimed that the spate of deadly attacks in Afghanistan were allegedly planned in Pakistan. Despite Pak-Afghan delegations meeting for talks both in Kabul and Islamabad, little headway has been made on the AfghanistanPakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), which is a Pakistani initiative for cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development.