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WASHINGTON: The US Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats haslevelled very serious rather dangerous allegations against Pakistan and expressed his apprehensions that due to elections in Afghanistan and India, largescale Taliban attacks and Pakistan’srecalcitrance in dealing with militant group would lead new dangers in the region in current year. Militant groups supported by Pakistan, which uses some terror outfits as “policy tools”, will continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, according to America’s top spymaster. Remarks by Director of NationalIntelligence DanCoats came as he and heads of other top American intelligence agencies appeared on Tuesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on their worldwide threat assessment. According to reports available from Islamabad, Pakistan has become very upset over these serious allegations and vehemently rejected all saying unfounded and mere baseless propaganda. Coats said Pakistan’s “narrow approach to counter terrorism cooperation-using some groups as policy tools and confronting only the militant groups that directly threaten Pakistan almost certainly will frustrate US counterterrorism efforts against the Taliban.”

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“Militant groups supported by Pakistan will continue to take advantage of their safe haven in Pakistan to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests,” Coats told the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Prominent among them included CIADirector Gina Haspel, who has just returned from a trip to India; FBI Director Christopher Wray and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley. The comment on SouthAsia is part of US intelligence community’s assessment of worldwide threatsin 2019 and was presented in the form of a written document to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Coats.

Coats said that the challenges facing South Asian states will grow in 2019 because of Afghanistan’s presidential election in mid-July and the Taliban’s large-scale attacks, Pakistan’s recalcitrance in dealing with militant groups, and Indian elections that risk communal violence. “We assess that neither the Afghan Government nor the Taliban will be able to gain a strategic military advantage in the Afghan war in the coming year if coalition support remains at current levels,” he said. Afghan forces generally have secured cities and other government strongholds, but the Taliban has increased large-scale attacks, and Afghan security suffersfrom a large number of forces being tied down in defensive missions, mobility shortfalls, and a lack of reliable forces to hold recaptured territory, Coats said. In a public testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday, Coats presented a threat assessment report outlining significant global security threats facing the US. The National Intelligence director in his remarks predicted that in the coming year, “militant groups in Pakistan will continue to take advantage of their safe haven there to plan and conduct attacks in neighbouring countries and possibly beyond.” Coats’ report holds Pakistan responsible for supporting and providing terroristssafe haven “to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests”.

It also accuses Islamabad of “using some groups as policy tools and confronting only the militant groups that directly threaten Pakistan”. The report claims that Pakistan’s “narrow approach to counter-terrorism cooperation […] almost certainly will frustrate US counter-terrorism efforts against the Taliban”. The comments come at a time when Pakistan is playing a pivotal role in aiding talks between the Taliban and the US in order to further the Afghan peace process and end the 17-year-long war. Islamabad has consistently denied allegationsthat it provides safe haven to terrorists or engages in cross-border terrorism. The report predicts that neither the Taliban nor Kabul will be able to gain a strategic military advantage in the Afghan war in 2019 “if coalition support remains at current levels”. It notes that the Taliban has stepped up large scale attacks although Afghan forces “generally have secured cities and other government strongholds”. “Afghan security suffers from a large number of forces being tied down in defensive missions, mobility shortfalls, and a lack of reliable forces to hold recaptured territory,” the report adds. Pak Nuclear programme Coats in his remarks before the Senate committee had said: “We remain concerned about Pakistan’s continued development control of nuclear weapons,” but did not express any concern about India’s nuclear programme, although the report notes that India had, in 2018, conducted its first deployment of a nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear missiles. The 2019 report mentions that “Pakistan continues to develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons,sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer range ballistic missiles.” A 2016 Harvard Kennedy report on prevention of nuclear terrorism states that India’s nuclear security measures “may be weaker than those of Pakistan”. However, the risk of theft across the border “appears to be moderate”, while in Pakistan it “appears to be high”. The overall threat from weapons of mass destruction is expected to continue growing in 2019, according to the US threat report, which claimsthat Pakistan and India’s growing nuclear arsenals “increase the risk of a nuclear security incident in South Asia”. It adds that new types of nuclear weapons “will introduce new risks for escalation dynamics and security in the region”. Pak-India tensions The report speculates that strained relations between Pakistan and India will persist “at least through May 2019, the deadline for the Indian election, and probably beyond”. It attributes this supposition to cross-border terrorism, firing across the Line of Control, divisive national elections in India, and Islamabad’s perception of its position with the US relative to India. “Continued terrorist attacks and cross-border firing in Kashmir have hardened each country’s position and reduced their political will to seek rapprochement,” the report says, adding: “Political manoeuvring resulting from the Indian national elections probably will further constrain near-term opportunitiesfor improving ties.” The Indian elections are also expected to play their part in stoking communal violence within the country which “could alienate Indian Muslims and allow Islamist terrorist groups in India to expand their influence,” the report warns. Furthermore, the US expects relations between India and China to remain tense “despite efforts on both sides to manage tensions since the borderstandoff in 2017, elevating the risk of unintentional escalation”. Although Chinese and Indian leadership held an informal summit in April 2018 to defuse tensions and normalise relations, border issues were not addressed, the report notes. “Misperceptions of military movements or construction might result in tensions escalating into armed conflict.” Pakistan upset According to media reports, Pakistan has complained to the United States about Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ controversial statement in which he alleged that Pakistan was using some terror groups as ‘policy tools.’ Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Islamabad had urged the US to acknowledge Pakistan’s role against terrorism rather than allowing the trust level to decline with such statements. Coats and heads of other top US intelligence agencies had appeared before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on their worldwide threat assessment. Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray and Defense Intelligence Agency Director RobertAshley attended the meeting. One official at the foreign ministry said that Pakistan had protested with the US through the diplomatic channels after the controversial statement surfaced. “We have only recently played a big role for peace inAfghanistan. We have sacrificed lives and we have defeated terrorism. The statement (by Coast) seems to be influenced by India. Thisis upsetting,” he added.