WASHINGTON - The US Department of Defence has said that it’s no longer conducting counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan because it views the group as an important partner in its efforts for restoring peace in the country.
“What we’re not doing is counter-terrorism operations against Taliban,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing. “We actually view Taliban as being an important partner in a peaceful Afghan-led reconciliation process. We are not actively targeting Taliban,” he said.
However, the briefing focused on US efforts to defeat the Middle East-based Islamic State militia. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, some ‘lone wolves’ were using the Islamic State brand to raise their stature, Captain Davis said, adding that the Middle Eastern militia did not have an institutional presence in the region.
He said that the Islamic State had a pretty good command and control system in Iraq and Syria but those claiming to represent the group in Pakistan and Afghanistan did not have the command and control relationship with the main base (in the Middle East). He also said that the US was working very extensively with the government in Pakistan to fight terrorists.
Captain Davis explained that while the Coalition Support Fund was aimed to enhance Pakistan’s ability to fight militants including the Haqqani Network, it also helped develop other broader spectrum counter-terrorism capabilities. In Afghanistan, the US finished its combat operations last year and its role there now was simply to advise and assist the Afghan forces, he said.
The spokesperson said that the US also had unilateral role of being able to conduct counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan primarily against the Al Qaeda group and its remnants. “But Islamic State would be fair game as well,” he said.