WASHINGTON: The US is keeping “all options” on the table to deal with Pakistan if it does not take decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network and dismantle their safe havens, the White House warned today.
The warning came after the US suspended about $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan+ for failing to clamp down on terror groups.
The freezing of all security assistance to Pakistan comes after President Donald Trump in a New Year’s Day tweet accused the country of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists in return for $33 billion aid over the last 15 years.
“The US does have a range of tools that we’re looking at beyond just the security assistance issue to deal with Pakistan and to try to convince it to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network,” a senior Trump administration official told reporters.
“Certainly no one should doubt the US resolve to address this threat and all options I would say will be on the table,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
While some policy makers have been asking the White House to revoke the non-NATO ally status of Pakistan and put pressure on the country through multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, Pentagon generals have indicated unilateral actions.
However, the official refrained from divulging any of the options that the administration is considering against Pakistan.
“I’m not able to comment on specific steps at this time. But nobody should doubt our resolve in trying to address these threats. We’re looking at all options. We hope that we can cooperate with Pakistan. But we do have options that we’re considering,” the official said.
The US wants action against the existing safe havens of the Taliban and the Haqqani network and demolish its ability to carry out strikes across the border in Afghanistan, the Official said and expressed hope that Pakistan would take actions that the US was seeking.
“….that will allow the relationship to return to a more positive trajectory,” the official said.
In August, while unveiling his new South Asia strategy, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.
Trump’s new policy, the official said, is driven by the his desire to have a successful strategy in Afghanistan.
“We firmly believes that for the future of the region, Pakistan needs to crack down on these terrorist elements. Unless they take a comprehensive approach to the terrorism problem it is going to threaten US interests and everybody’s interests including Pakistan’s,” the official said.
He said the announcement of the suspension of the security assistance to Pakistan clearly reflected the US’ frustration over Pakistan’s failure to crack down on all terrorists who find shelter on its territory.
“There has been ample time for Pakistan to show it is taking our request seriously. Unfortunately, we have not seen the kind of meaningful action that we were seeking,” the White House official rued.
Responding to a question, the official said US has “a number of tools in its toolkit” and can “take unilateral” steps.
But at this time, the US prefers to cooperate with Pakistan and is hopeful about it, the official said.
“And we want to indicate Pakistan our seriousness about the issue of dealing with safe havens,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the US would restore the suspended security assistance to Pakistan if it takes action against terrorist groups.
“We would restore the aid if we see decisive movements against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us,” Mattis told reporters.
Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US
KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.
Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.
The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.
The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.
The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.
Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”
Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.
UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.
“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.
Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt
Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.
As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.
A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.
The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.
It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.
The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.
“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.
The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.
After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.
Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.