US urges action and offers ‘new relationship’

ISLAMABAD: A key aide of President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Pakistan to address “the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory”, alongside offering a ‘new relationship’ to Islamabad.

The statement from Ambassador Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at US Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, suggested that Washington was far from convinced with Pakistan’s view that there was no organised presence of any terrorist outfits – including the Haqqani network.

Ambassador Wells, who wrapped up her two-day trip on Tuesday after meetings with senior Pakistani officials, was the first high-ranking American official to travel to Islamabad after President Trump slammed Pakistan for ‘lies and deceit’ in his new year tweet.

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The Trump administration subsequently suspended the entire security assistance to Pakistan because of its alleged inaction against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.

Although, the underlined message delivered by Ambassador Wells was the same, her tone and tenor was not hostile. In fact, she fully acknowledged Pakistan’s ‘considerable sacrifices fighting terrorism’.

“In her meetings with Pakistani officials, Ambassador Wells underlined that the United States seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on our mutual interest in realising a stable and prosperous region,” said a statement issued by the US embassy.

“Acknowledging Pakistan’s considerable sacrifices in fighting terrorism, Ambassador Wells emphasised that the US’ South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together for the establishment of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, the defeat of ISIS in South Asia, and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States,” the statement added.

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While her emphasis was on seeking greater cooperation with Islamabad, Ambassador Wells, nevertheless, minced no words in identifying the alleged presence of the Haqqani network and other groups as a major stumbling block.

“Ambassador Wells urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory,” the embassy statement concluded.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the allegations that it is providing sanctuary to any terrorist group – including the Haqqani network. Islamabad has also said it would not hesitate in acting against such groups if Washington provides ‘actionable intelligence’ about the presence of any militant outfit on its soil.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have seen fast deterioration since the start of new year, with the Trump administration taking a tough stance pushing Islamabad to do more in the fight against terrorism.

Alice Wells meets Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad

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