US urges Pakistan to
dismantle terrorist groups
within its territory

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National special report

WASHINGTON: The United States has released its report on terrorism in 2020 in which it has recognised the efforts of Pakistan and India both to counter the activities of terror outfits.

In the report on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Pakistan has made some important contributions to the Afghan peace process, such as encouraging the Taliban to adopt peace and reduce violence and making more progress toward completing its Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Action Plan in 2020.

However, the report stated that Pakistan did not fulfil all of the Action Plan’s elements and remained on the FATF’s “grey list”. Despite acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism in the region, the report claimed that terrorist groups continued to conduct attacks against Pakistani military and civilian targets in 2020.

The annual US report said that Pakistan continued to experience terrorist attacks last year, said the report. Pakistani military and security forces undertook counterterrorism operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan, such as the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant Islamic State (IS) group and Balochistan Liberation Army.

“Pakistan took steps in 2020 to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused militant groups from conducting attacks. Pakistan convicted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and four other senior LeT leaders in multiple terrorism financing cases,” the report said.

Although the report acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism, it claimed that groups targeting Afghanistan and India — such as the Haqqani Network, LeT, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) — continued to operate from Pakistani territory.

“Pakistan did not take action against other known terrorists such as JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan,” the report added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blenken

But it also acknowledged that “Pakistan did make positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process, such as encouraging Taliban reductions in violence”. Noting Pakistan’s efforts to meet the demands put forth by FATF, the report noted: “Pakistan made additional progress in 2020 toward completing its FATF Action Plan, but did not complete all Action Plan items and remained on the FATF ‘grey list’.”

Support for Pakistan

In a separate chapter titled “Support for Pakistan”, the report said the US government recognised Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and broader regional security, and “urges Pakistan to dismantle terrorist groups within its territory”.

It pointed out that the United States “cooperates with Pakistan on counterterrorism operations, which has helped Pakistan reclaim parts of the country previously held by militant groups”.

Yet, TTP and other designated terrorist groups “continue to conduct attacks against Pakistani military and civilian targets”, said the report, adding that “while Pakistan has taken some action against these designated terrorist organisations, some externally focused terrorist groups continue to find safe haven in Pakistan”.

That’s why “the US government continues to suspend most of its security assistance to Pakistan. That suspension remained in effect throughout 2020”, said the report.

Despite the restriction, however, the US government maintained a civilian assistance portfolio on a focused set of priorities, the report added. “Civilian assistance continued to prioritise civil society; people-to-people exchanges; stabilisation and development on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; trade and economic growth, including partnering with US businesses; law enforcement, counterterrorism.”

The report explained that the emphasis of US civilian assistance to Pakistan remained on sustainable development and capacity-building, and on leveraging trade and private sector investment, where possible. It also encouraged partnership and a long-term positive impact for the Pakistani people.

US report on India

US annual report

Indian security agencies are effective in disrupting terror threats, but gaps remain in interagency intelligence and information sharing, the US state department said in its annual report on terrorism published Thursday. Citing several arrests by India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA), the country-wise report said that Indian counterterrorism forces actively detected and disrupted transnational and regional terrorist groups in 2020.

The ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2020: India’ mentioned multiple arrests of alleged al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives from Kerala and West Bengal, and of Abdul Karim, the second-in-command of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, on suspected involvement in serial bombings in Bodh Gaya in 2013.

It stated that India responds “in a timely manner” to the requests made by the United States for information related to terrorism investigations and “makes efforts to mitigate threats” in response to the information shared by the US. According to the report, the collaborative efforts of India and the United States have disrupted terrorist travel and alerted American authorities about possible threats posed to the United States.

“Officials remain concerned about internet use for terrorist recruitment and radicalization to violence, as well as for fomenting interreligious tensions. In 2020 there were multiple reports in the media and from the NIA of suspected cases of online terrorist radicalization, particularly in southern Indian states,” the report said.

It highlighted the major terrorist groups that are active in India, including Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. “The Indian government made significant efforts to detect, disrupt, and degrade the operations of terrorist organizations within its borders,” the report further noted, adding that counterterrorism and security cooperation with the United States expanded in 2020.

The report goes on the mention that Indian security agencies are effective in disrupting terror threats, although gaps remain in interagency intelligence and information sharing.
“The Indian Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) collaborates with the United States on exchanging terrorist screening information. In the absence of a National Counter-Terrorism Center, the MAC conducts real-time collation and sharing of intelligence among federal and state security agencies,” the report said.
According to the report, India collaborates with the United States on implementing UNSCR 2309 and is enforcing compliance with the dual-screen X-ray mandate for cargo screening at airport locations.
“There were 66 known Indian-origin fighters affiliated with ISIS, as of November. No FTFs were repatriated to India during 2020,” it said.