In a blunt message, the US has asked Pakistan to intensify efforts to counter terrorist sanctuaries inside its borders and take concrete steps against the dreaded Haqqani network responsible for major attacks on American installations in Afghanistan.
The tough message was conveyed by US National Security Advisor Susan Rice to the top Pakistani leadership including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif during her day-long visit to the country on Sunday.
Rice during her meetings, “urged Pakistan to intensify its efforts to counter terrorist sanctuaries inside its borders in order to promote regional peace and stability,” said Ned Price, Spokesman of the National Security Council of the White House.
Rice also urged Pakistan to take concrete steps against the Haqqani network after the recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said.
According to Pakistani diplomatic sources, Rice appreciated Pakistan’s operation in North Waziristan but urged the country to take more concrete steps against the Haqqani network.
The group was based in North Waziristan but Pakistani officials say the militants have fled to Afghanistan after military operations.
The US’ top security official also urged Pakistan to improve ties with Kabul.
Rice told top civilian and military leaders in Islamabad that attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan by Pakistan-based militants were “absolutely unacceptable”, a senior American official was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
According to daily, Rice’s remarks were in reference to the recent allegations by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the series of terror attacks in Kabul were from terrorists based in Pakistan.
“We share the concerns of the Afghan Government,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.
Rice told Pakistani leaders that “terrorist and militant attacks have developed into a key point of regional friction.”
“Addressing this challenge will be imperative for Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and with Washington,” a US official was quoted as saying by New York Times, “especially given the recent upsurge in violence in Kabul and the Taliban’s bloody campaign this fighting season in Afghanistan.”
The US official, however, made no reference to India’s assertions that the recent terror attacks in its territory were carried out by militants from across the border.
According to the daily, Rice’s visit to Islamabad was unrelated to the growing tensions between India and Pakistan. It had been scheduled weeks ago, the official said.
In the last few weeks, the United States has expressed its displeasure over the reluctance of the Pakistani government to take strong action against the Haqqani network.
Last week, Abdul Aziz Haqqani, a top leader of the Haqqani network, was named as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ by the US for his involvement in planning and carrying out attacks against Afghanistan.
Afghanistan government has alleged that the recent Kabul attacks were carried out by the Haqqani network, a view which is shared by the US too.
Rice and Pakistani officials also discussed how the United States and Pakistan can continue to work together on a range of regional and global issues.
“Rice commended Pakistan’s support for recent talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, underscored the US commitment to an Afghan-led peace process,” Spokesman of the National Security Council of the White House Price said.
“Rice extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sharif on behalf of President Obama to visit the White House on October 22, 2015, to further strengthen the US-Pakistan relationship,” Price said.
Meeting with civil society leaders, Rice commended their work in support of human rights, development, and civil liberties in Pakistan and affirmed continued strong US support for their invaluable efforts, he said .
Earlier this month, State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Pakistan needs to fulfill its commitment that it does not differentiate between terrorists.
“Our views and concerns on the Haqqani network are well-known. We have discussed them from this podium at length, and we raise the issue regularly as part of our engagement with the Government of Pakistan,” he said.
“The Government of Pakistan has made clear that it does not differentiate between militants — this is a commitment from their Prime Minister — and that they will not allow Pakistani soil to be used as a safe haven for militants to attack other countries,” Kirby had said.