US offers Pakistan cooperation against TTP, IS if it delivers on Afghan peace
Tillerson says Pakistan is ‘so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace, security to region’
PM Abbasi says Pakistan is ‘committed in war against terror’
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday informed the visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about its policy of a peaceful neighbourhood and steps taken to promote cooperation and stability in Afghanistan and the region, seeking US cooperation to alleviate the elements inside Afghanistan which are destabilising peace in the region.
Rex Tillerson, who arrived here on his first state visit, was accompanied by a high-level delegation. Talks covered in detail all aspects of bilateral relations, the regional situation, as well as the evolving international environment.
The visit was a follow-up to the meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the US Vice President Mike Pence in New York in September 2017, where the two sides agreed to resume full-scale engagements between the two governments.
Pakistan’s delegation included Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG ISI General Naveed Mukhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janua and others.
Unlike the past precedents, Pakistan sent out a very positive message to the world, as its senior civilian and military leaders together met with Tillerson at the Prime Minister’s House. The move reflected that despite differences on certain issues, Pakistan stands firm when it comes to its relations with friendly countries—like the US, China and Afghanistan.
Tillerson told PM Abbasi that Pakistan is “so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship.”
Abbasi said Pakistan is “committed in the war against terror.”
“We have produced results and we are looking forward to moving ahead with the US and building a tremendous relationship,” he said.
“The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror,” Abbasi said.
“We appreciate the understandings that we agreed and we appreciate the engagement,” he added.
Upon his arrival at the Noor Khan Airbase, Tillerson was received by Sajjid Bilal, DG US, Ministry of Foreign Affairs—another shocker for the visiting US dignitary, as in past, top civilian and military officials used to receive senior US officials.
— US Embassy Islamabad (@usembislamabad) October 24, 2017
Though the US official statement carried the essence of ‘do more mantra’ for Pakistan, the host country issued a balanced and measured official handout here after the meeting, stating that Pakistani delegation outlined its policy of a peaceful neighbourhood and steps taken to promote cooperation and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
“The US delegation was informed that progress in promoting peace and stability in the region was linked to the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The ongoing grave violations of human rights by Indian occupation forces in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK) were highlighted,” the statement said, referring to the belligerent Indian atrocities inside IoK, as well as across the Line of Control (LoC) killing and maiming the civilians on a daily basis.
“The ongoing grave violations of human rights by Indian occupation forces in IoK were highlighted,” the statement added.
The prime minister underlined the importance of high-level engagements between the two countries and expressed satisfaction on the progress made during these interactions in recent months.
“Prime minister informed the visiting delegation of the significant strides Pakistan had made in improving the overall security and economic environment of the country, resulting in significantly improved business and investment opportunities available to foreign businesses and investors,” the statement added.
The delegation was apprised of the tremendous sacrifices made by the Pakistan nation, including security forces and law enforcement agencies, in the war against terror.
“The fact that Pakistani security forces have successfully carried out the largest counterterrorism operation was detailed, along with Pakistan’s sustained commitment and interest in supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as the broader region. The delegation was also informed of the ongoing efforts on securing the Pak-Afghan border out of national resources. The two sides agreed to build upon the understandings reached in the dialogue process and to continue the pace and scope of high-level engagements in future,” the statement concluded.
US ASSERTS PAKISTAN TO ‘DO MORE’
A handout issued by the US embassy, however, carried a strong-worded statement.
— US Embassy Islamabad (@usembislamabad) October 24, 2017
“The Secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan ‘must increase’ its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” said that statement, hinting at the US assertion that terrorists were still roaming around in Pakistan freely.
US WANTS PAKISTAN TO HELP PEACE PROCESS IN AFGHANISTAN
The statement issued by the US embassy carried a specific reference to Pakistan’s role in the recommencement of the peace dialogue with Afghan Taliban.
“To address those concerns, the Secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region,” the statement added.
The statement mentioned that Tillerson discussed with Pakistan the continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region.
“The Secretary noted that Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States,” the statement added.
In a rare show of this cooperation, the US has recently emphasised that it can deliver to Pakistan by targeting various terrorists active inside Afghanistan. Of late, the US drones have killed many top-ranked terrorists of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), TTP-Jama’atul Ahrar and others.
“In all meetings with Pakistan’s leaders, the Secretary expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The Secretary also expressed his gratitude to the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity,” the statement concluded.
TILLERSON SOUGHT PAKISTAN’S COOPERATION FOR AFGHAN PEACE PROCESS
Before leaving for Pakistan, US secretary of state told journalists in Kabul that there was a room for moderate voices from the Taliban in the Afghan government, and the US was looking to engage such voices in a reconciliation process.
The secretary said that the fight has to continue against the Taliban and against others in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory.
“And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” the secretary said before heading to Pakistan on the next leg of his South Asia visit.
He said that the US was looking to engage with those voices and have them engaged in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.
“There’s a place for them in the government if they’re ready to come renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence, and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” he added. The Secretary said that the US was here to stay in Afghanistan “until we can secure a process of reconciliation and peace”.
He also added that Pakistan needs to “take a clear-eyed view” of its position and act.
This was Tillerson’s first visit to Afghanistan since he took the job of the Secretary of State. After Pakistan, he is due to visit India.