The US may cut aid to Pakistan or review its status as a major non-NATO ally if Islamabad does not do more to help fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. Pakistan said it is disappointed with the US’ “false narrative.”
Tillerson’s comments come after US President Donald Trump blasted Pakistan on Monday, saying that the country provides “safe havens” for terrorist groups.
“We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” the Secretary of State said.
Washington has “some leverage” that will allow it to put pressure on Islamabad, he added.
“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.
Tillerson said that despite the historically good relationship between the US and Pakistan, “over the last few years, there has been a real erosion in the confidence between our two governments… because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan.”
“We want to work with Pakistan in a positive way, but they must change their approach,” Tillerson said, adding that Islamabad can play an “important role” in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
An unnamed US official told Reuters that the US is considering “significant” measures to persuade Pakistan to fight terrorism more actively, including sanctioning Pakistani officials linked to extremist groups.
Trump promised to step up military efforts against the Taliban in Afghanistan in a televised addressed on Monday.
According to military sources quoted by Reuters, it may include sending about 4,000 additional troops to join the 8,400 US servicemen already on Afghan soil, as well as intensifying airstrikes and training local pilots.
In the same speech, Trump also claimed that “we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”
On Tuesday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry called Trump’s claims of safe havens for the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the country a “false narrative.”
“No country in the world has suffered more than Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism, often perpetrated from outside our borders. It is, therefore disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation in this effort,” the ministry said in a statement.
“As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country,” it added.
Islamabad pointed out that there was “no exclusive solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“The military action during the last 17 years has not brought peace to Afghanistan, and it is not likely to do so in the future. Only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned politically negotiated solution can lead to sustainable peace in Afghanistan,” it said.
The war on terrorism in Afghanistan has become America’s longest conflict ever, as it enters its 16th year. It has claimed the lives of around 2,400 US soldiers, but so far failed to put an end to the Taliban.
Though the US and Pakistan have been close allies in the fight against terrorism for years, the US has been accused of fueling insurgencies in Pakistan with its controversial drone strikes, which the Pentagon has been carrying out since 2004, often without Islamabad’s consent.
According to US military figures from February 2016, 3,058 people were killed in drone strikes from 2004 to 2016, including 286 identified as civilians and 274 as “others.”
Meanwhile, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,497 and 3,999 people were killed by American UAVs during that period – 423 to 965 of whom were civilians, including around 200 children.
In May 2016, a US drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour on Pakistani territory near the Afghan border. Islamabad was not notified of the operation until it was completed.
Pakistan labeled the strike “a violation of sovereignty,” saying that they derailed the international effort to bring the Taliban back to the negotiating table.