WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Tuesday that Pakistan’s privileged status as a major non-NATO US ally could be in question if it continues to give safe haven to extremists.
“We have some leverage,” Tillerson told reporters, “in terms of aid, their status as a non-NATO alliance partner – all of that can be put on the table.”
Pakistan is one of 16 countries to currently enjoy “major non-NATO ally” status, which is not a mutual defense pact like the Atlantic alliance, but allows close military cooperation.
On Monday, President Donald Trump sternly rebuked Pakistan for supporting groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which launch cross-border raids on US and Afghan troops.
And he suggested Pakistan will suffer consequences if it does not get behind a renewed US effort to help Kabul repel the Taliban and force them to negotiate a political settlement.
On Tuesday, Tillerson met journalists to brief them on the details of the strategy, and to lay out what Islamabad might expect if it does not fall into line.
“The president has been clear that we are going to attack terrorists wherever they live,” Tillerson said.
“We have put people on notice that if you’re providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned – we are going to engage those providing safe haven and ask them to change what they are doing.”
And Tillerson added that, aside from the Afghan people, Pakistan has more to gain “than any other nation” from an end to the fighting.
China defends Pakistan
BEIJING: China defended its ally Pakistan on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump said the United States could no longer be silent about Pakistan’s ‘safe havens’ for militants and warned it had much to lose by continuing to ‘harbor terrorists’, reported Reuters.
Trump committed on Monday the United States to an open-ended conflict in Afghanistan, signaling he would dispatch more troops to America’s longest war and vowing ‘a fight to win’.
Trump insisted that others – the Afghan government, Pakistan, India and NATO allies – step up their own commitment to resolving the 16-year conflict, but he saved his sharpest words for Pakistan.
Senior US officials warned security assistance for Pakistan could be reduced unless the nuclear-armed nation cooperated more in preventing militants from using safe havens on its soil.
Critics say Pakistan sees militants such as the Taliban as useful tools to limit the influence of old rival India. Pakistan denies allowing militants’ refuge on its territory, saying it takes action against all groups.
Asked about Trump’s speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made ‘great sacrifices’ and ‘important contributions’ in the fight.
“We believe that the international community should fully recognize Pakistan’s anti-terrorism,” she told a daily news briefing. “We are happy to see Pakistan and the United States carry out anti-terror cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, and work together for security and stability in the region and world.”
China and Pakistan consider each other ‘all-weather friends’ and have close diplomatic, economic and security ties.
China has its own security concerns in the region, in particular any links between militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Islamist groups China blames for violence in its far western region of Xinjiang.
“We hope the relevant US policies can help promote the security, stability and development of Afghanistan and the region,” Hua said.