US says in contact with Pakistan to ‘discuss ways’ to combat TTP

WASHINGTON: The United States said it eyed a “strong partnership” with Pakistan in the arena of counter-terrorism and that it was “continuing to discuss ways that we can be most effective” to eliminate every regional and global threat of militancy.

When asked to comment on Washington’s calls to assist Islamabad to deal with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) amid a spike in attacks, a State Department spokesperson, in an email to Geo TV, said: “We seek a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism and expect sustained action against all militant and terrorist groups without distinction.”

Since mid-November, the Afghanistan-based group has launched a series of deadly attacks, killing dozens of security personnel and injuring many more. On Monday, militants took hostages after seizing a counter-terrorism and interrogation centre in the town of Bannu.

The resurgence contradicts claims by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and other authorities as recently as September that the threat of terrorism was just an “exaggeration.”

Responding to the situation, Washington said that both nations have suffered terribly from the scourge of terrorism.

“We look forward to cooperative efforts to eliminate all regional and global terrorist threats and are continuing to discuss ways that we can be most effective in this regard,” the spokesperson added.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US has been tracking the TTP for at least a decade and a half, long before they radicalised and trained Faisal Shazad for his brazen attack of setting fire to a vehicle in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

Following the Times Square attack, the TTP was designated a terrorist organisation and is still considered a threat to US interests.

Subsequently, on December 1, the State Department labeled the TTP “specially designated global terrorists.” This was a meaningful diplomatic success for Pakistan insofar as further support from the Afghan Taliban for the TTP will translate into Kabul’s official support for terrorism.

And while Islamabad is keen to play down the threat from the group — Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said Pakistan can “fully” control conflict with the TTP and describes conversations with the group during the ceasefire as talks “which are held in a state of war” — its control of the situation pivots on the TTP remaining within Pakistan’s borders.

The US has said on more than one occasion it was ready to help Pakistan as the country deals with resurgent TTP.

The matter also came up during Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s phone call with his American counterpart, Antony Blinkon, this week.

Blinken, according to a statement, offered his condolences for lives lost in recent terrorist attacks and underscored the United States’ resolute support for Pakistan as its combats terrorism.

Earlier this week, the State Department maintained that Pakistan remains a partner of the US when it comes to shared challenges, including the challenge of terrorist groups — those inside Afghanistan as well as along the Afghanistan border.

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