NATO-led forces can still win the war in Afghanistan even if Pakistan fails to move against militant havens on the border, a top US general said on Tuesday.
“That’s not a mission stopper in my mind,” General David Rodriguez, deputy US commander in Afghanistan, told a Pentagon news conference.
US officials have long pressed Islamabad to crack down on the Haqqani network and other militants based in North Waziristan, saying the insurgents exploit the area as a sanctuary to stage attacks on coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
But Rodriguez said the war effort would not be derailed even if Pakistan never fulfils promises to take action in North Waziristan, saying Islamabad has launched effective operations elsewhere along the northwest border.
“We need them to do more. We’re going to encourage them to do more because that makes it easier on what we’re doing. But I think it’s still doable, without them decreasing what they’ve been doing, which is significant,” he said.
His comments contrasted with more pessimistic assessments from US intelligence agencies and some lawmakers, who have warned that Pakistan’s reluctance to combat the Haqqani network in North Waziristan could undermine the war effort.
Pakistan has maintained ties to some militant groups as a hedge against historic rival India and to ensure Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan, diplomats say.
Rodriguez said he expected violence in Afghanistan to increase as usual in the spring as the insurgency launches its annual “seasonal” offensive.
But he predicted the Taliban would change its approach, targeting Afghan officials for assassination while moving away from confrontations with the heavily-armed coalition force.
With President Barack Obama planning to start a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in July, Rodriguez said it was too early to say how many forces might be pulled out.
Rodriguez leads the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, serving under the overall commander in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus.