Pakistan has played an important role in defeating Al Qaeda, combating ISIS in region: US

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Pakistan has played an important role in defeating Al Qaeda, combating ISIS in region: US

WASHINGTON - The US State Department’s second-in-command said the US “continues to value its relationship” with Pakistan and “recognises the benefits of cooperation”.

“Pakistan has played an important role in pushing al Qaeda closer to defeat, combating ISIS, securing its nuclear weapons, hosting Afghan refugees, and, importantly, providing access for supplies and equipment used by US and Afghan forces, he said adding, “We also acknowledge the enormous sacrifices the Pakistani people and security forces have made to combat terrorism.”

He added that the US would restore security assistance to Pakistan “when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction.”

He said that the US is committed to doing its part to reduce tensions in the region in ways that address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns.

“To be clear, we oppose the use of terrorist proxies by any country against another country, anywhere in the world. The use of terrorism has no place in a rules-based international system. We hope the Pakistanis will also help to convince the Taliban to enter a peace process.”

On India, he said the US continues “to deepen our strategic partnership with India,” while bringing up Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s October 2017 trip to New Delhi.

“We expect to launch our inaugural 2+2 dialogue with India in Washington this spring when Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis will meet with their Indian counterparts to further deepen our security ties.”

He said the US and India share economic and humanitarian interests in Afghanistan. “India has allocated more than $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. India further strengthened ties with Afghanistan with the signing of a Development Partnership Agreement last year. We appreciate these contributions and will continue to look for more ways to work with India to promote economic growth and stability in Afghanistan.”

Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said that the US is now focusing the Afghanistan portion of the South Asia Strategy on four key pillars – regionalisation aimed at enlisting the support of regional actors and enhancing overall regional stability; reinforcement of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) capacity, capabilities and overall effectiveness; realignment of US, coalition, and Afghan resources; and an Afghan-led peace process facilitating political settlement and reconciliation.

“All of these critical pillars of the strategy are complementary, mutually supportive, and designed to integrate through a political, fiscal, and military sustainable model,” Schriver said.

He added that the US is equally focused on minimising malign influence in Afghanistan, particularly from Russia and Iran.

“We have asked regional partners to leverage their relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan to reinforce our calls for broader cooperation between the two countries. We are also relying on regional partners such as India to increase their economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.”

He said Pakistan is a long-standing and important partner, with deep historical ties to the US, and is key to the success of the South Asia Strategy.