US lawmaker questions Pak capability to fight Taliban

An influential US Senator has questioned whether Pakistan has the political will or the capability to take on the Taliban and other militants.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published: February 27, 2009 1:52:46 pm

An influential US Senator has questioned the commitment and willingness of Islamabad to take head on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and charged the official machinery in Pakistan of providing crucial assistance to its leaders.

“For many reasons,I question whether Pakistan has the political will or the capability to take on the Taliban and other militants. Evidence of their unwillingness or inability to do so has been clear and longstanding,” said Senator Carl Levin,Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Levin,who convened a hearing on “Strategic Options for the Way Ahead in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said there have been reports for some that the Afghan Taliban council meets in Quetta and from there plans attacks in southern Afghanistan.

“The militant Baitullah Mehsud,suspected of orchestrating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto,holds an open press conference in South Waziristan,” he pointed out.

“To make matters worse,the Pakistan government inflames opposition to the United States with their strong public criticism of our air strikes,” Levin charged.

Afghan Taliban cross unhampered from Baluchistan into southern Afghanistan,but there is evidence indicating that some elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service may be providing support to militants conducting cross-border incursions into Afghanistan,the Senator said.

“Pakistani forces look the other way while the extremist militants cross over the border to attack coalition forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan and then pull back to sanctuaries on Pakistan’s side of the border,” Levin said during the Congressional hearing.

Both Levin and Senator John McCain argued the need to expand and strengthen the Afghan Army. McCain even suggested increasing the number of Afghan soldiers to 2,00,000.

“We should also more than double the current size of the Afghan army to 160,000 troops and consider enlarging it to 200,000. The cost of this increase,however,should not be borne by American taxpayers alone,” McCain said.

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