US wants Pakistan to ‘do more’ to eliminate all militant groups
SLAMABAD: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said on Monday that the US wants Pakistan to “do more” to eliminate all militant groups.
He said the “US would continue to support Pakistan in effectively combating terrorism,” in a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House. Kerry extended condolences of the US government and people on the tragic Peshawar incident and said that terrorists are the common enemy of the two countries. “US is a vital component of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” Prime Minister Nawaz said. He appreciated US President Barack Obama’s message of friendship and cooperation in the aftermath of the Peshawar attack on December 16. Further, the prime minister highlighted Pakistan’s focus on greater market access for Pakistani products and US investment in Pakistan to create job opportunities.
Prime Minister Nawaz also expressed hope that the next Business Opportunities Conference that will be held in Islamabad in March 2015 will receive a good response from US investors. Additionally, the premier appreciated the US’ support for the Dasu and Diamer-Bhasha dam projects. Kerry had earlier arrived in Islamabad on an unannounced trip to urge the government to do more to crack down on militant groups following last month’s massacre of 134 children by Taliban in Peshawar. “The secretary’s engagement will be very critical to advancing our shared fight against militant extremism,” a senior State Department official told reporters, saying Kerry would chair the annual strategic dialogue between the two countries.
Kerry, who is on a two-day visit to Pakistan after visiting India, is expected to meet the country’s top political and military leadership to discuss bilateral relations and the regional security situation. Kerry is due to meet Army Chief General Raheel Sharif as he aims both to offer sympathy and to galvanise Pakistan to combat militants. “We’ll be very clear, as we have on previous occasions, that the Pakistani fight against militarism has to root out all militant groups in Pakistan,” a senior State Department official told reporters before Kerry left Washington on Friday.
While acknowledging the army’s offensive against militants in areas near Afghanistan over the last six months, Kerry plans to call for more action to fight groups that Pakistani officials and generals have viewed as strategic assets in their rivalry with India and as they jockey for influence in Afghanistan. “Part of the secretary’s core message will be to ensure that actions are met with a real and sustained effort to constrain the ability of the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Afghan Taliban, and other militants who pose a threat to regional stability and to direct US interests,” said the official.
As for Haqqanis, the United States accuses the country’s intelligence agency of supporting the network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against the influence of its arch-rival India in the country. Pakistan denies that. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan blamed for the December 16 attack on the military-run school in Peshawar, are distinct from the Afghan Taliban but both share the goals of toppling their governments. In addition to bilateral meetings with the prime minister and army chief of staff, Kerry will co-chair the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue with Sartaj Aziz, the national security and foreign affairs adviser to Nawaz Sharif.
Kerry will be joined by General Lloyd Austin, who heads the US Central Command which stretches across 18 nations in the Middle East, Central and South Asia from Egypt to Pakistan. A Pakistani source told Reuters earlier that the Pakistani side would use the talks to ask Kerry to step up technical and training assistance for its programme aimed at cracking down on extremism following the Peshawar attack. Kerry also wanted to discuss ways to improve Afghan-Pakistani ties as well as reconciliation efforts with Taliban militants in each country.
Recent violence along the border in Kashmir between India and Pakistan would also be high on the agenda. Upon arrival in Islamabad, Kerry was received by the PM’s senior aide Sartaj Aziz. “During the drive to the airport in Ahmedabad, India, two cars in the motorcade had a minor traffic accident resulting in some damage to both cars,” Kerry’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Secretary Kerry was in the first of the two vehicles. He sustained no injuries nor did any staff or personnel. One vehicle was switched out and the motorcade proceeded to the airport without further incident.”