US soft persuasion and tough message for Pakistan

US soft persuasion and tough message for Pakistan

WASHINGTON: United States is now saying that Pakistan could lose control of its territory if it does not sever ties with the Haqqanis and other terrorists.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who issued the advice at a Washington think-tank earlier this week — also said the militants who were focusing on Kabul might one day decide that Islamabad was a better target.

The warning followed a Pentagon statement, which said the new US strategy for Afghanistan had “fundamentally changed the battlefield in favour of Afghan national security forces” and the Taliban militants were now on the retreat.

And this change happened because the new strategy made it clear that US forces would stay in Afghanistan for as long as it took to stabilise the country and also because it gave American troops more power to confront the enemy, the Pentagon added.

The two statements follow the Trump administration’s repeated calls to Pakistan to do more to destroy the alleged safe havens that Afghan militants still retain in parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a charge Islamabad strongly denies.

“Pakistan has allowed so many terrorist organisations to find safe haven within its territories, and these organisations are growing in size and influence, that at some point I have said to the leadership of Pakistan, you may be the target, and they turn their attention from Kabul and decide they like Islamabad as a target better,” Secretary Tillerson said.

In his remarks on “Meeting the foreign policy challenges of 2017 and beyond” organised by the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum, Mr Tillerson said that Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqani network needed to be altered. “I understand that this is a relationship that has emerged probably for, in their view, good reasons a decade ago, but now that relationship has to be altered because if they’re not careful, Pakistan is going to lose control of their own country,” he said.

The top US diplomat assured Pakistan that Washington wanted to work with Islamabad to “stamp out terrorism within their boundaries”, but Pakistan had to “begin the process” by changing its relationship with the Haqqani network and with others.