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US puts more pressure on Pakistan to help with Afghan war


US puts more pressure on Pakistan to help with Afghan war

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WASHINGTON – The United States put more pressure on Pakistan on Tuesday to help it with the war in Afghanistan, suggesting it could downgrade Islamabad’s status as a major non-NATO ally if it does not crack down on Islamist militants.

A day after President Donald Trump singled out Pakistan for harbouring Afghan Taliban insurgents and other militants, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington’s relationship with Pakistan would depend on its help against terrorism.

“We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson told reporters.

US officials are frustrated by what they term Pakistan’s unwillingness to act against groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Pakistan denies that it harbours militants fighting US and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan.

Tillerson said the United States could consider withdrawing Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally if cooperation did not improve.

“We have some leverage that’s been discussed in terms of the amount of aid and military assistance we give them, their status as non-NATO alliance partner – all of that can be put on the table,” he said.

In a televised address on Monday about America’s involvement in Afghanistan, Trump pointed to Pakistan as offering safe haven to militants in Afghanistan, which the United States invaded in 2001.

Successive US administrations have struggled with how to deal with nuclear-armed Pakistan, which has a long porous border with Afghanistan. Washington fumes about inaction against the Taliban, but Pakistan has cooperated closely with Washington on other counterterrorism efforts, including against al Qaeda and Islamic State militants.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was “disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation” in the fight against terrorism.

“As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country,” it said.

A senior US administration official said on Tuesday that significant measures were under consideration, including possibly sanctioning Pakistani officials with ties to extremist organizations.

Trump committed the United States to an open-ended war in Afghanistan but the Pentagon has yet to decide how many more U.S. troops to send there as it is still drawing up a plan, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday.

Trump also called for Pakistan’s great rival India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, a prospect that will ring alarm bells for Pakistan’s generals. (Reuters)