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Kerry lauds Pak efforts against extremists, says it must do more

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13 January 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday praised Pakistan's military operations against militants in the country's northwest, saying the results are "significant."

His comments came after a meeting in Islamabad with Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs.

At the same time, Kerry said earlier on Monday that the US wants Pakistan to ''do more'' to eliminate all militant groups.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said the US ''would continue to support Pakistan in effectively combating terrorism.''

Pakistan launched a major operation in the North Waziristan region in June. The US has long advocated such an operation because the region has become a hub for militant groups who attack targets in both Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

Kerry arrived in Pakistan on Monday to press the country's leadership to step up the fight against extremists and eliminate safe havens for terror groups along the Afghan border.

Pakistan has been on edge since the 16 December attack on the Peshawar school that was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban as retaliation for an army operation launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area.

The current operations "in the northwest have disrupted militant activities in the tribal areas and resulted in important seizures of weapons," Kerry said. "The operation is not yet complete but already the results are significant. Pakistani soldiers and their commanders deserve enormous credit."

Kerry also announced that $250 million in previously appropriated money will be given to emergency relief efforts in the tribal areas, mainly North Waziristan. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the area due to the fighting.

Kerry also praised the reopening on Monday of the school in Peshawar where Taliban gunmen slaughtered students and teachers in one of the country's worst terrorist attacks. Kerry called the reopening a testament to the resolve of the Pakistani people.

Pakistan has boosted operations against violent extremists in recent months, but US officials traveling with Kerry said Washington wants to ensure that there is a "real and sustained effort" to limit the abilities of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Laskhar-e-Tayyiba, which pose direct threats to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as well as to American interests.

Significantly, India did not figure at all in Kerry's comments, despite being a constant target for Pakistan militants, almost indisputably backed by sections of the Pakistani army. Clearly, the US continues to prioritise geopolitically sensitive Afghanistan over democratic India.





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