NEWS DESK: The State Department has once again accused Pakistan of allowing terror groups to operate from its soil in a recently released report on terrorism across the world. The State Department released its annual report, Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, which provides the Department of State’s annual Congressionally-mandated assessment of trends and events in...
NEWS DESK: The State Department has once again accused Pakistan of allowing terror groups to operate from its soil in a recently released report on terrorism across the world.
The State Department released its annual report, Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, which provides the Department of State’s annual Congressionally-mandated assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that transpired from January 1 to December 31, 2016, on Wednesday.
The report states that numerous terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2016. “Although LeT is banned in Pakistan, LeT’s wings Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) were able to openly engage in fundraising, including in the capital,” said the report. “LeT’s chief Hafiz Saeed (a UN-designated terrorist) continued to address large rallies, although in February 2017, Pakistan proscribed him under relevant provisions of Schedule Four of the Anti-Terrorism Act, thus severely restricting his freedom of movement. The 2015 ban on media coverage of Saeed, JuD, and FiF continued and was generally followed by broadcast and print media.”
According to the report, the Pakistani government did not publicly reverse its December 2015 declaration that neither JuD nor FiF is banned in Pakistan, despite their listing under UN sanctions regimes, although in January 2017, Pakistan placed both organizations ‘under observation’ pursuant to Schedule Two of the Anti-Terrorism Act. While not a ban, this allows the government to closely scrutinize the activities of both organizations, it added.
The report further said that on November 11, Pakistan’s National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) published its own list of banned organizations that placed JuD in a separate section for groups that are ‘Under Observation’, but not banned. “Pakistan continued military operations to eradicate terrorist safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, although their impact on all terrorist groups was uneven,” said the report.
Nevertheless, the report said that throughout 2016, the Government of Pakistan administered an Exit Control List intended to prevent terrorists from traveling abroad.
“To combat weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking, Pakistan harmonized its national control list with items controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and continued to harmonize its control lists with other multilateral regimes, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia Group,” it read. “Pakistan improved legal and regulatory cooperation, industry outreach, and nonproliferation awareness for the Strategic Export Control Division and Pakistani Customs. In addition to industry outreach, Pakistan also delivered technical trainings to licensing and enforcement officials for the proper detection, interdiction, and identification of dual-use commodities that could be used to create WMDs.”
The report further said Pakistan was a ‘constructive and active participant’ in the Nuclear Security Summit process and in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and worked to strengthen its strategic trade controls, including updating its national export control list. The State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program increased the Government of Pakistan’s enforcement capacity by sponsoring training for Pakistani Customs and the Strategic Export Control Division officials on how to properly identify strategic commodities of concern, it said, adding that these commodity identification and advanced interdiction trainings were implemented by the US Department of Energy.
“EXBS also sponsored regional collaboration through nonproliferation fellowships and cross‑border coordination with Afghanistan through the UN Office of Drugs and Crime – World Customs Organization’s Container Control Program (CCP),” it read. “Under the CCP, training was provided to enhance the targeting of skills of port control unit officials at the Jalalabad border‑crossing and encouraged sharing of customs data between countries.”
Meanwhile, the report said that terrorist and insurgent groups are active in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Government of Afghanistan struggled to assert control over this remote terrain, where the population is largely detached from national institutions,” it read. “Afghanistan generally cooperated with US counterterrorism efforts, although there were some disagreements on the role of US nationals during combined counterterrorism operations. President Ghani has actively pursued cross-border security cooperation with the Government of Pakistan, including the prospect of joint operations to reduce safe havens on both sides.”
Since the transition from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Resolute Support in January 2015, the trilateral border agreement that governed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (ISAF was also a signatory) expired and the two countries were unable to finalize a bilateral agreement to replace it, said the report. “While there were some positive tactical-level steps taken by each country’s military to improve operational coordination, regular cross-border shelling, and terrorist attacks on both sides of the border made formal agreement politically untenable,” it added.
The report further said the potential for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking and proliferation remained a concern in Afghanistan because of its porous borders and the presence of terrorist groups. “The United States and Afghanistan continued to work to finalize a bilateral framework to facilitate closer cooperation to counter nuclear terrorism and enhance Afghanistan’s capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear smuggling incidents,” it said. “The Afghanistan and US governments also continued to work to implement comprehensive strategic trade controls and strengthen Afghanistan’s border security system.”
The Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program contributed to strengthening Afghanistan’s border enforcement capacity by providing training to the Afghan Customs Department, the report added. “EXBS also sponsored regional cross-border collaboration through trainings with its South and Central Asian neighbors through the US Department of Energy as well as Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – World Customs Organization’s Container Control Program.”
According to the report, the United States continued to assist the Afghan government in building capacity to secure potentially dangerous biological materials and infrastructure housed at Afghan facilities, promote surveillance capabilities to detect and identify possibly catastrophic biological events, and engage Afghan scientists and engineers that have WMD or WMD-applicable expertise.