BREAKING NEWS

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Tillerson arrives today with ‘do more’ message from Donald Trump

Tillerson arrives today with ‘do more’ message from Donald Trump
Tillerson arrives today with ‘do more’ message from Donald Trump

  • US Secy of State asks Pakistan to step up war against terrorist havens
  • Says moderate Taliban can become part of Afghan govt

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday delivered a blunt warning to Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safe haven within its borders, Pakistan Today reported.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability.
The top US official said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha.
“And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safe haven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson, who will visit Islamabad on Tuesday, said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. “Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organisations that find safe haven inside Pakistan. So we want to work closely with Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The top US diplomat announced that he would be flying to Islamabad on Tuesday, adding that from there, he would then travel to India to discuss a request that it expand its economic and development assistance to Afghanistan.
A statement posted on Twitter by the US embassyin Kabul said Tillerson reiterated the US commitment to working with the Kabul government and regional partners “to achieve peace in Afghanistan and deny safe havens to terrorists who threaten that goal”.
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilising Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safe haven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
It was Tillerson’s first trip to Afghanistan as secretary of state and comes several weeks after US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis also paid an unannounced visit.
The closed-door talks covered Ghani’s reform programme, his anti-corruption strategy and preparations for parliamentary elections due next year.
Tillerson’s unannounced visit follows one of the bloodiest weeks in Afghanistan in recent memory, with more than 200 people killed in multiple attacks on security installations and mosques across the country.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Pakistan, a staunch US Cold War ally and a key player in the US-backed invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has watched warily as Washington has in recent years pivoted towards India.
Islamabad views its arch-rival India as an existential threat and the two nations have fought three wars since their violent separation at the end of colonial rule in 1947.
Tillerson is due to meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the military chiefs in a one-day visit. He is also expected to hear Pakistani officials warn him that drawing nuclear-armed India deeper into Afghanistan would destabilise the region and do little to end the 16-year war that is now America’s longest military conflict.
“Bringing India into the mix is like adding kerosene to fire,” said Miftah Ismail, a state minister and close ally of Prime Minister Abbasi.
“It’s a complete red line. India has no political role to play in Afghanistan as far as we are concerned.”

Posted By Raela Hafizi

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