Washington, Jan 28: Observing that the terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan, including those of the Haqqani network, pose a major security threat to Afghanistan, a former top American general has called for targeting "terrorist sanctuaries".
"We have got to step up to what two (US) Presidents have failed to do and that is deal with these sanctuaries in Pakistan from which intelligence, support and training for operations inside Afghanistan comes," Gen (rtd) John M Keane told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.
"This is Afghan-Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and specifically the Haqqani Network should be targeted just like Al Qaida. "In targeting them we will disrupt it, disrupt their command and control and disrupt their operations. Then we begin to have a chance," he said in response to a question. Keane also advised against withdrawal of US counter-terrorism forces from Afghanistan in 2016 or reducing the number of Afghan security forces from their existing strength of 325,000.
"What makes this so serious strategically inside Afghanistan is Kabul's presence to the Haqqani Network. "Every place that gets lit up in Kabul is done by the Haqqani Network and they are in the environs right now with support infrastructure surrounding Kabul," he said.
"The only thing that we can do to change that dimension is, one, increase the capacity of the Afghan national security forces, we've got to hold them at 352,000. Anybody coming to you and telling you that we should put the Afghan national security forces on a decline after 2016 is absolutely foolish and irresponsible in that recommendation," he said.
"These are the guys that chase down high-value targets. When we did that in Iraq in 2011, it was a disaster. "When Al Qaida began to rise because we pulled out the intelligence capability to see it, we couldn't see it and we couldn't hit it. "If we do that in Afghanistan, I think it's a death knell for Afghanistan," he said.