In an interview with Afghan media outlet TOLOnews on Saturday evening, Gen Nicholson said the issue of outside sanctuaries has to be addressed but that it was “being addressed in private between the US government and the Pakistani government – but it does need to be addressed.”
“Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped,” he stressed.
“I am primarily focused on activities inside Afghanistan,” but other officials are looking into the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, he said.
According to him, the issue of sanctuaries was a serious one and one that needed to be addressed.
“The Quetta Shura, Peshawar Shura, these shuras are identified by cities inside Pakistan, we know Afghan Taliban leaders are in these areas,” he said.
Specifically asked whether the Taliban leadership in Quetta and Peshawar and other major Pakistan cities “shouldn’t sleep in peace from now on”, he said: “I won’t put words in the (US) president’s mouth but he definitely conveyed this message.”
He said that following US President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this week on his new war strategy, he, Nicholson, as a commander, has a new policy — “one based on conditions and not time.”
He said: “It gives us additional capabilities. We have a direction now provided by the US policy that is being supported by NATO.”
On the issue of general security in Afghanistan, Nicholson said the “civilian casualties is a real tragedy”.
On whether a diplomatic solution could be found, the general said this was a possibility but that a significant military effort inside the country would be carried out and that together the US would work with the Afghan government to increase its military capabilities.
“The Taliban cause the vast majority of civilian casualties and even though they have stated that it is their objective to reduce civilian casualties they have in fact increased civilian casualties. This is one of the points that we need to put on the table with the Taliban. They are not acting in the best interests of the Afghan people.”
“We know the Taliban receives the majority of its financing from narcotics traffic,” he said, adding that the organisation has become a group that brings misery and hardship to the people.
Asked if he sees the Taliban as a terrorist organisation, Nicholson said: “They do terrorist activities and they enable terrorists.”