In a move that supports President Trump’s message that Pakistan must do more about allowing the Taliban sanctuaries in their country, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Taliban bases in Pakistan pose a “big challenge” to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg said that he regularly brings this issue up to Pakistan’s military leaders and will continue to do so.  These comments to the media were made on Tuesday from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

“We have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times. It is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists,” said the NATO chief.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua while briefing a parliamentary committed on foreign affairs said Islamabad told Washington in recent high-level bilateral talks that all areas in Pakistan have been cleared of terrorists.

Janjua reiterated Pakistani forces will take immediate action if the United States provides “actionable intelligence” regarding the presence of terrorists in the country. She went on to assert terrorists are operating not out of Pakistan, but from across the Afghan border.

“In Afghanistan, 45 percent of the country is not under government control, which is why the Haqqani network and other terror groups do not need a safe haven in Pakistan,” Janjua said.

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s support for the Afghan government and said that NATO troop levels will rise shortly. There are currently 13,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, he said those levels will rise to about 16,000. However, in keeping with the US policy of President Trump, Stoltenberg stated that the NATO troops will not be there conducted combat operations but beef up the train, assist and advise mission.

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