Eliminate terror groups or we will, US warns Pakistan

28 Oct 2017


The Trump administration has firmly told Pakistan that it wants Pakistan to eliminate terror groups operating from its soil instead of finding excuses for not reining in terror and that the United States will be forced so look at alternatives if Islamabad failed to deliver.

If Islamabad fails to take "decisive" actions against terror groups, the US will "adjust" its tactics and strategies to achieve the objective in a "different way", a State Department official said on Friday.

US diplomatic sources said the Trump administration will over the next weeks monitor practical steps taken by Pakistan in the war against terrorism, even as she asserted that the Trump administration is moving quickly on its own strategy to fight against terror groups.

The Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Alice G Wells, who was part of the US delegation led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told reporters in a briefing that it is all about Pakistan's strategic choice.

"This is about Pakistan's sovereign choice. This is not about America giving dictation. We've described our strategy, we've described a very important role for Pakistan, who we see as a very important country in the region, but it's up to them whether or not they want to work with us on this strategy. And if they don't, as the Secretary said, we'll adjust accordingly," Wells said.

During his just concluded visit to Pakistan, Tillerson stressed the importance of Pakistan "moving quickly" to demonstrate good faith and efforts to use its influence to create the conditions that will get the Taliban to the negotiating table.

"These are things that are seen and felt and measurable, and so we look forward over the next weeks and months to see the practical steps that Pakistan takes out of its own self- interest and ensuring that its own country is not destabilised by some of the actions of the groups that have been able to use its territory," she said.

"I can't give you an explicit timetable, but we're moving very quickly ourselves on our own strategy and in reinforcing on the military side our ability to demonstrate to the Taliban that they cannot win this war. We are going to make equally rapid progress on the diplomatic side or have equally-high expectations on the diplomatic side of responsiveness," she said.

Wells asserted that the Taliban leadership and the Haqqani Network still retain an ability to plan, to recuperate, and to reside with their families in Pakistan.

The Quetta and Peshawar leadership councils of the Taliban have their names for a reason, she noted.

"What we saw in 2014 was we saw Pakistan make a strategic decision to defeat the terrorist groups that were targeting the government of Pakistan. And with great loss of life, great courage, great vision about what needed to be done, Pakistan has fought that battle and now has regained control and sovereignty over the FATA territories," she said.

"We'd like to see the same strategic commitment brought against other militant groups, whether that are operating or have used Pakistan's territory, whether they are directed against India or directed against Afghanistan," she added.

Tillerson, during his meetings with Pakistani leadership, had an extremely candid conversation with the Prime Minister and the civilian and military leadership team, she said.

The Secretary underscored that the strategy is an opportunity; since Pakistan, with the exception of Afghanistan, has the most to benefit from a stable and peaceful country next door.

He noted that at several critical junctures over the last 70 years, the US has worked very closely with Pakistan, and the Coleman hostage is an example of what they can do when together.

"But under the strategy, we've laid out some very specific expectations of how Pakistan can help create the conditions that will help bring the Taliban to the table. And I think the longstanding relationships with the militant and terrorist organizations, our concern is that they threaten Pakistan's stability.

You see already the spillover of the sectarianism that has been building in Pakistan over the last several decades," she said.

According to Wells, over the last four years Pakistani officials and the Taliban both thought the US was withdrawing.

"They were hedging against a chaotic departure. They were hedging against an uncertain security environment," she said.

"What the South Asia strategy gives them, is certainty that we're there, we're not going to let the Taliban win, that we're prepared to invest the resources that will be, at a minimum, a stalemate but a stalemate increasingly in the government's favour," she said.

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