WASHINGTON: United States Defense Intelligence Agency chief has expressed confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear security efforts, while also acknowledging effectiveness of the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation.
Lt. General Vincent R. Stewart, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, while testifying before a Congressional hearing on worldwide threat assessment, expected sustained Pakistani operations against militants this year.
“Pakistan continues to take steps to improve security of its nuclear arsenal.
We anticipate that Pakistan will continue development of new delivery systems, including cruise missiles and close-range ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons to augment its existing ballistic missiles,” he said, appearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
Gen. Stewart told lawmakers that Pakistan’s Army and paramilitary forces remain deployed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
“Army ground operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) have cleared anti-state militants from most population centers, and we expect the military will continue targeting remaining militant strongholds in 2015.”
He noted that the December 2014 Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack against the Army Public school in Peshawar that killed more than 140 people, mostly children, has emboldened military efforts against anti-state militants, including intensified airstrikes against TTP leadership and fighters.
The government and military are also working together to implement a national action plan against terrorism, which includes the establishment of military courts.
However, Stewart said despite ongoing military operations, Pakistan will continue to face internal security threats from militant, sectarian, and separatist groups.
Additionally, Pakistan remains concerned about ISIL outreach and propaganda in South Asia.
About Afghanistan, he said, al-Qaeda will likely try to expand its limited presence in eastern Afghanistan as Western counterterrorism operations there decline, and in the face of continued counterterrorism from Pakistan.
Regarding India, Stewart said the country is in the midst of a major military modernization effort undertaken by all three military services to address problems with its aging equipment.
India’s relations with Pakistan remain strained, he said.”Both sides engaged in periodic skirmishes on or near the Line of Control that separates Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, resulting in the highest number of civilian casualties since 2003.”