‘Time to move quickly’

Rex Tillerson
(left) meets
Pakistani prime
minister Shahid
Khan Abbasi; and
(below) activists
protest against
Donald Trump
FROSTY TIES: Rex Tillerson (left) meets Pakistani prime minister Shahid Khan Abbasi; and (below) activists protest against Donald Trump


THE United States wants Pakistan to move quickly to show good faith in supporting efforts to counter mili­tants operating in Afghanistan and in bringing the Taliban to the negoti­ating table, the senior US diplomat for south Asia said last Friday (27).

Speaking after accompanying US secretary of state Rex Tillerson on a visit to the region, including Pakistan, Alice Wells said Washington looked for­ward to seeing practical steps from Paki­stan “over the next weeks and months”.

“The secretary 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,” Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said.

Wells said Pakistan’s long-standing relationships with militant organisa­tions was a threat to its own stability and said the Taliban leadership and the allied Haqqani network still retained the ability to plan and recuperate and reside with their families in Pakistan.

She said Washington wanted Paki­stan to show the same commitment it had made to defeat militant groups domestically to those threatening Af­ghanistan or India. “It’s up to them whether or not they want to work with us,” Wells said. “And if they don’t… then we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Wells declined to elaborate on what action the United States might take or what specific actions it wanted Paki­stan to take. Last week, Tillerson said the US is concerned that extremist groups are threatening the “stability and security” of the Pakistan government.

Tillerson, who visited Islamabad, said too many extremists were finding sanctuary inside Pakistan to launch attacks on other nations. He said Paki­stan had an interest “in not just con­taining these organisations but ulti­mately eliminating” the groups.

“Quite frankly my view – and I ex­pressed this to the leadership of Paki­stan – is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government as well,” he told reporters in New Delhi last Wednesday (25), his next stop after Islamabad.

“This could lead to a threat to Paki­stan’s own stability. It is not in any­one’s interests that the government of Pakistan be destabilised.”

Tillerson’s visit – the first to the nu­clear-armed nation by a senior official from president Donald Trump’s ad­ministration – follows months of pres­sure from Washington on Pakistan over its alleged support for Taliban militants.

It followed an unannounced stop in Kabul last Monday (23), where Tiller­son reiterated America’s commitment to Afghanistan and warned that Wash­ington has made “very specific re­quests” of Pakistan over militancy.

Trump has angrily accused Islama­bad of harbouring “agents of chaos” who could attack US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of sup­porting Afghan militants including the Taliban. They are believed to have links to Pakistan’s military establishment, which aims to use them as a regional bulwark against arch-nemesis India.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the charge, insisting it maintains contacts only to try to bring the militants to peace talks.

Tillerson did express his apprecia­tion to Pakistan officials for the sacri­fices it has made in fighting militancy, and for its help in securing the release of a US-Canadian family held captive by the Taliban for five years.

But America’s top diplomat – whose frosty visit to Islamabad lasted just four hours – said the US would not tolerate extremist safe havens.