"Terrorist sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan will continue to challenge Afghan security," nominated assistant secretary of Defence for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Michael D Lumpkin said on Thursday.

The Pentagon official also said the US must remain cautious in Afghanistan as the allied forces begin to withdraw in 2014. "Both unilateral and partnered direct actions are an essential and highly effective element of our strategy to defeat al-Qaeda and those that enable it in Afghanistan, particularly in northeastern parts of the country," he said.

In a set of written answers submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lumpkin told lawmakers that the US and Pakistan share common interests in long term regional stability; which includes disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda, a durable political settlement in Afghanistan, and the safety and security of the Indian Ocean.

The military-to-military relationship is an important part of this partnership as it facilitates mutually beneficial counter terrorism goals, he said, adding, "US military assistance to Pakistan has helped the PAKMIL achieve success in its counterinsurgency efforts."

"Despite recent setbacks in this relationship, it is important that we continue to engage our PAKMIL counterparts to reestablish and rebuild the relationship and continue achieving these successes," he said. “Al-Qaeda's safe havens in Northeast Afghanistan and the limited capacity of the Afghan government remain the biggest threats to consolidating security gains to enable an enduring, stable Afghanistan that can prevent terrorist groups from using these areas to launch attacks against the US homeland," he said.

"Additionally, the threat of attacks against US interests within Afghanistan is likely to increase as US and allied direct support to security decreases; this is a threat against which our personnel in-country must remain vigilant," he said.


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