Pakistan must increase anti-terror effort: Top US envoy
25 Oct 2017 - 12:17
KARACHI, Pakistan: Pakistan "must increase" its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country, U.S. secretary of state told Islamabad during his day-long official visit Tuesday.
Tillerson, who arrived in Pakistani capital on his first ever visit after his appointment as the secretary of state, met Premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa before he left for Indian capital New Delhi as part of his next leg of his maiden visit to the Middle East and South Asia.
The visit was seen by Pakistani officials as an attempt to quell escalating diplomatic tensions between Washington and Islamabad following President Donald Trump’s new policy for South Asia, which accused Pakistan of patronizing militants, announced in August this year.
However, the official U.S. statement released after the visit made it clear that the Trump administration expects Islamabad to do a lot more than what it claims it has already done.
In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said Tillerson discussed continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region.
“The secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country.
“To address those concerns, the secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region.
“The secretary noted that Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States,” it said.
Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir said the country’s top leadership conveyed to Tillerson that India is a threat to Pakistan. "We told him that we don’t mind economic operation between the two countries but we have reservations against India’s role in regional security," Dastgir told Geo TV.
According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not allowed to talk to the media, Tillerson discussed ways to resume the long-stalled Afghan peace process and urged the Pakistani leadership to use its influence over the Afghan Taliban “more forcefully”.
“Afghanistan dominated the entire meeting. The two sides discussed in details different ways to woo the [Afghan] Taliban for resumption of reconciliation process,” the official said.
While the secretary of state reportedly hailed Pakistan for its ongoing onslaught on militants in the restive tribal region along the Afghan border, he also asked for a further push, especially against the Haqqani network, he said.
- Pakistan's 'own war'
Washington has long been accusing Islamabad of providing safe havens to Haqqani network -- a militant group blamed for numerous attacks on the U.S. and Afghan forces in neighboring Afghanistan, including its capital Kabul in recent years.
Pakistan, however, denies the charge, and itself accuse Kabul of allowing militants to use its soil for attacking Pakistani security forces and civilians.
The ministry official said Pakistan also reiterated its “severe concern” over Washington’s reported plans for a broader Indian role in Afghanistan.
Islamabad had already agreed to initiate fresh efforts to bring Taliban back to negotiations following an ice-breaking visit of Pakistan’s army chief to Kabul earlier this month, according to Pakistani media reports.
Pakistan brokered a landmark round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government, and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but the process broke down after the Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader, Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militant group.
Chances for resumption of the stalled process went further dim following death of Mullah Omer’s successor, Mullah Mansur in a U.S. drone strike last year in southwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border.
Several attempts aimed at resuming the halted process have been made since July 2015 by a four-nation group comprising of Pakistan, Afghanistan, US and China but they have all failed one after another.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have opened new battle fronts across the war-torn nation in recent months as Afghan security forces -- suffering casualties and desertions -- struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.
According to local broadcaster Geo TV, Premier Abbasi told the visiting American official that his country had gained major successes in the war against terrorism.
“Pakistan will continue to fight against terrorism because it is its own war,” he was quoted as saying.
Since 2014, Pakistan has launched a series of military operations in northwestern tribal region -- once a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban, killing over 5,000 suspected militants apart from clearing 90 percent of the area.
The U.S. embassy statement also said Tillerson expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, and expressed gratitude to the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani army for their cooperation in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity, it added.