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Pakistan is still supporting Taliban: US expert

By Lalit K Jha
November 06, 2009 14:02 IST
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Pakistan, which has received at least $13 billion from the United States over the last eight years for its war on terrorism, is 'undermining that very war', limiting the effort to its own enemies and continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, an academician testified before United States lawmakers on Friday.

"Pakistan is, in fact, limiting its war on terrorism to those elements that undermine the Pakistani state. And those elements are not comprehensively the enemies of the United States. They are specifically the enemies of Pakistan," Assistant Professor at Georgetown University Christine Fair said at a Congressional hearing on Friday.

"Having received $13 billion, if not more, from the United States to participate in the war on terrorism, Pakistan continues to support the Afghan Taliban. This means that Pakistan is undermining the very war on terrorism that it has received a handsome reward allegedly to support," she said while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

In order to stabilise the region, the US needs to compel Pakistan to cease supporting all militant groups operating on and from its territory over a reasonable timeframe, she said. "This includes coercing or compelling Pakistan to abandon its continued support of the Afghan Taliban," she added.

In response to a question, Fair said America's inability to compel Pakistan to cease its support to all militant groups is actually the crux of instability in South Asia.

"Let's remember that it was a Pakistan-based and backed terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, that attacked the Indian Parliament, which brought the largest mobilisation of forces throughout the country, both of them to a near-war crisis with the spectre of nuclear escalation," she said.

Everyone who studies South Asia agrees that a militant attack, similar to what happened in Mumbai, will be the most likely precipitant of an Indo-Pakistan conventional crisis with potential escalation, she said, adding that Pakistan's own domestic problems stem from its support of militant proxies.

"The Pakistan Taliban share overlapping membership with those very same groups that target India and, obviously, the Afghan Taliban operating in Afghanistan. So it can't defeat its own internal security threats -- which brings into question Pakistan's national integrity and obviously its strategic assets -- until it is compelled to strategically abandon militancy," she said.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill, which grants $ 7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan in the next five years, rightly says that the Pakistan army is as much a part of the problem as it is of any solution, she said.

"And as long as we need Pakistan to facilitate the massive logistical support to support our effort in Afghanistan, which will only increase as we increase the troops, you can bet that waiver's going to be applied," Fair said.

She said it is very clear that money alone does not fix Pakistan's chronically neuralgic sense of insecurity vis-a-vis India.

"I don't think that what India does or does not do in Afghanistan is going to make Pakistan stop supporting the Taliban. I think we need to think very hard about what is Pakistan's genuine source of insecurity and put some things on the table that might be out of the box," she said.

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Lalit K Jha In Washington
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