Afghan Taliban
General John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, said the US was aware of the presence of Taliban leadership in Pakistan and emphasised the support to the militants has to stop - File photoOmar Sobhani/Reuters

The US is aware of Afghan Taliban leaders' presence in Quetta and Peshawar areas in Pakistan, General John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces and Nato in Afghanistan, said on Saturday (26 August).

Pakistan has to stop support to these militants, the commander said during an exclusive interview with Afghanistan's Tolo News agency. He added that the issue was being addressed diplomatically.

"The Quetta Shura, Peshawar Shura, these shuras are identified by cities inside Pakistan, we know Afghan Taliban leaders are in these areas," the general said. He stressed the need to address the issue of outside sanctuaries for militants, but noted that it was "being addressed in private between the US government and the Pakistani government".

"Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped.

"I am primarily focused on activities inside Afghanistan," but other officials are looking into the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, Nicholson added.

He did not rule out a diplomatic solution to the issue and noted that together the US would work with the Afghan government to increase its military capabilities to fight Taliban.

Elaborating on the Afghanistan strategy following US President Donald Trump's announcement earlier this week on increasing troops in the country, Nicholson suggested there will be a full-fledged assault on the militants.

He added that he has a new policy for Afghanistan – "one based on conditions and not time".

"It gives us additional capabilities. We have a direction now provided by the US policy that is being supported by Nato.

"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," Nicholson said about the civilian casualties of the ongoing anti-militancy campaign.

"This [civilian casualties] 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.

When asked if he sees the Taliban as a terrorist organisation, Nicholson told Tolo News: "They do terrorist activities and they enable terrorists." He likened the group to al-Qaeda militant group.

When asked if he had the mandate to go out and kill Taliban militants, Nicholson said: "It is our mandate to put military pressure on the Taliban."