The US forces in Afghanistan have no plans to cross the international border to take out the Taliban and other militants who flee to Pakistan after conducting attacks inside the war-torn country, according to a top Pentagon official.
Afghanistan has witnessed some of the worst terrorist attacks killing scores of people. It has blamed Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban for these attacks.
"To be clear, US military authorities are within the borders of Afghanistan only. We have no authority to go into Pakistan. If there is a way to get that authority, but that would certainly be the exception and not the norm and would not be," Lt Col Mike Andrews, a spokesperson of the Department of Defence, said yesterday after his return from Afghanistan where he accompanied US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
"Say, for example, we have troops in contact and then the Taliban militants go across the border. They are clearly inside Pakistan then. There's no change with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan."
He reiterated they would not be going into Pakistan. "Like I said there, there could be exceptions to that, but it is not going to be a normal day to day operational rules of engagement that our commanders on the ground know," he added.
"If the Taliban reside in Pakistan and we are able to provide safety and support and to help secure districts and provinces within the borders of Afghanistan, I think that that is a tradeoff that we're willing to make. Because it's not necessarily about these people over in Pakistan, its about the Afghan people," Andrews said.
So, looking at the provinces that the Taliban claim or that are contested with the Taliban, that's going to be the focus of the Afghan forces this year to get them back, he said, adding that there's enough work to be done inside of Afghanistan to reduce the Taliban's influence, to reduce their level of control, to provide more security and stability to Afghans.
"And what happens in Pakistan, we can't have any control on that... Now we're going to stay focused on Afghanistan," he said in response to a question.
It is the expectation of the United States, he said, that Pakistan takes steps to ensure that there are no sanctuaries where the Taliban or other terrorist organisations can reside and where they think that they are safe from the US.