ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said Monday that military offensive in its northwestern tribal areas has almost wiped out the Haqqani network , known for its audacious attacks across the border on Afghan and foreign forces.
The statement from country’s top diplomat comes a day after US national security adviser Susan Rice voiced concern of her country in meetings with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad that the militant group continues to operate from safe havens in areas along Afghan border.
But at a press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, said Zarb-e-Azb operation against terrorists was continuing without any distinction and the back of militants including Haqqani network has been broken.
“The infrastructure of Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which includes IED factories and a number of other capacities including communications, has been disrupted (in the operation that began last year),” Aziz told a questioner. “So what is left here may be very limited compared to the capacity they still have in Afghanistan,” he added.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Rice told Pakistani civilian and military leaders Sunday that attacks in Afghanistan by forces based in Pakistan were “absolutely unacceptable”. The US has conditioned $300 million in military aid to Pakistan for anti terrorism operations with Islamabad’s taking effective action against Haqqanis.
Aziz disputed the US assertion that the group plans most of its Afghanistan attacks from Pakistani soil. “Our assessment is that their capacity in Afghanistan is much bigger, probably 80 to 90 percent compared to what is here and it is also being cleaned out as a part of our operations,” Aziz said, giving an implied message that now it was upon Afghanistan and US-led international forces to do their part of the job.
German foreign minister said he agreed with the assessment provided by his Pakistani counterpart and noted the sacrifices by Pakistani security forces in the fight against militants. “We have also seen that Pakistani security forces have paid a heavy toll in the military action. I do believe the assessment of Pakistan that the Haqqani network has been disrupted,” Steinmeier said.
Sartaj Aziz said he was confident that Zarb-e-Azb operation will soon reach its logical conclusion by eradicating terrorism from the country. He said the military and political leadership were moving ahead against the menace with unprecedentedly close coordination.
He said Pakistan was still paying a heavy price in fighting the menace of terrorism that also continued to haunt the world, and urged the international community to join hands for developing a coherent strategy to counter violent extremism.
German foreign minister seconded Aziz saying the absolute success against terrorism was only possible with the concerted efforts of the international community. He hailed Pakistan’s brave efforts to eliminate terrorism, saying the country had boldly taken the challenge and sacrificed a lot in this struggle.
These comments come at a time of tense relations between Kabul and Islamabad, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently accusing Pakistan of sending “messages of war” following a spate of attacks on the capital city. Islamabad responded by summoning Afghanistan’s ambassador over what it called a “smear campaign”.
Steinmeier called for Pakistan’s enhanced role in Afghan reconciliation process and urged the governments of the two states to overcome the obstacles, hindering the reconciliation process. He noted that the process was initiated after both sides had shown willingness in this regard.
The Haqqani network was set up in the 1970s as an Islamist force as part of combined efforts of US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and their allies to oppose the Marxist regime in Kabul and its Soviet backers. After US invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11 attacks, the group joined hands with Taliban to fight against the international forces and the Afghan government installed by them.
Group’s leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was last month named as one of two deputy leaders of the Afghan Taliban. He has long been one of Washington’s most important targets, and was joined last week by his brother Abdul Aziz Haqqani on the blacklist of “specially designated global terrorists”.