ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has taken action against all Islamist militants including the Haqqani network, the army spokesman said on Monday hours ahead of a U.S. announcement on Afghan policy that could herald a tougher stance towards Islamabad.
“There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. We have operated against all terrorists, including (the) Haqqani network,” spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a media briefing in Islamabad.
He said evidence to that effect was shared with General Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command, who visited Pakistan over the weekend.
U.S. officials say Afghan’s Islamist Taliban insurgents and the allied Haqqani network, deemed the most lethal Afghan militant group, are supported by elements of Pakistan’s military and top intelligence agency, a charge Islamabad denies.
U.S. President Donald Trump was expected in an address to the nation due at 0100 GMT to address the future of relations with Islamabad, part of a review of policy on the protracted war in neighbouring Afghanistan.
With Taliban insurgent forces no nearer to defeat after more than 15 years of conflict, Trump was likely to announce a modest increase in U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan, a senior administration official said.
”As regard to U.S. policy, and even if it comes with certain
coercive, you know, announcements, Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest,” Ghafoor said.
Votel met Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and on Saturday toured the Waziristan area that was long the base of local and foreign militants along the Afghan border, where Pakistan’s military waged a campaign to drive them out.
Washington and Islamabad have at times had a rocky relationship, including over the secret U.S. raid inside Pakistan in 2011 that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Relations have been under scrutiny in Trump’s lengthy review of a new strategy and troop levels in the fight against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in Afghanistan.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; editing by Mark Heinrich