McCain Afghan strategy threatens sanctions against Pakistan

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Washington

The long awaited Afghan strategy by US Senator John McCain threatens “imposing graduated  diplomatic, military, and economic costs on Pakistan” if it continues to provide the alleged support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The strategy, issued on Thursday afternoon as an amendment to next fiscal year’s defence bill, includes providing additional US troops for counter-terrorism missions. It also allows US  advisers to work closer to the front lines with Afghan  officers and giving US commanders a broader authority to target Taliban insurgents, Islamic State militants and other militias.  Senator McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has long threatened to force a strategy on the administration if it doesn’t come up with one to win the 16-year-old war. Mr McCain said some of America’s “most experienced and respected former military and intelligence officials” contributed to this strategy.  Besides threatening Pakistan with new sanctions, the proposed policy also outlines the potential benefits of a long-term US-Pakistan strategic partnership that could result from Pakistan’s cessation of support for all terrorist and insurgent groups and constructive role in bringing about a  peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. The plan suggests a regional dialogue including Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other nations to promote Afghan political reconciliation. It proposes intensifying US regional diplomatic efforts working through flexible frameworks to encourage this dialogue to advance regional cooperation on issues such as border security, intelligence sharing, counter-narcotics,  transportation, and trade. Senator McCain hopes that this would “reduce mistrust and build confidence among regional states”.  And last week, US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster indicated that a new US strategy for Afghanistan may include this “carrot and stick” approach.  Senator McCain visited Pakistan and Afghanistan last month with a team of senior US lawmakers and in an interview to PTV emphasised the importance of Pakistan’s support for US efforts to end the Afghan war.— INP