WASHINGTON: The Pakistanis are “clearly extremely engaged” in combating terrorism, says the US State Department while also clarifying that the Obama administration has already issued a waiver for Pakistan to receive US assistance from the previous fiscal year.
The State Department, which has been quiet about its engagements with Pakistan during Secretary of State John Kerry’s stay in India, has finally broken its silence, underlining “the long-term, broad-based nature of the bilateral relationship based on shared interests.”
Briefing Washington-based journalists on the secretary’s visit to Pakistan, four senior State Department officials covered various aspects of relationship, which was pushed in the background while Secretary Kerry and his delegation looked for business opportunities in India.
One of the issues they clarified concerned the status of US assistance to Pakistan, which caused an angry reaction in New Delhi when US ambassador to Pakistan informed officials in Islamabad two weeks ago that the United States had set aside some funds for Pakistan.
The Indians argued the United States must have fulfilled a legal requirement for releasing such assistance by certifying that Pakistan had taken appropriate steps to curb terrorism. Issuing such a certificate was wrong as Pakistan was still allowing extremists to use its territories, they said.
One of the senior officials who briefed the media said that the US had only issued a waiver, saying that it was in US national interest to continue its assistance to Pakistan.
“We’ve waived certification for FY ’14, but we haven’t yet notified the funding,” the official said. “So what’s happening with Pakistan right now is that we are coordinating on the priorities for how we will notify that funding to Congress.”
Another official said the United States was working with Afghan and Pakistani governments to ensure that one’s “territory is not used by militants to attack the others”.
Noting that there was a basis for much greater cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the official said: “We saw evidence of that cooperation in the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar attack.”
The officials noted that Pakistani counter-terrorism operations in North Waziristan had significantly disrupted militant activities in tribal areas and resulted in important seizures of weapons and IED materials.
“This operation is the latest and most extensive phase of Pakistan’s efforts to counter (and) to extend greater government control throughout its territories,” the official said.
One of the officials said that in his meetings in Islamabad, Secretary Kerry was once again emphasising the need to root out all militant groups in Pakistan.
He noted that the United States and Pakistan had had very good cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda, including some recent actions against individuals involved in the 2009 plot, which targeted the New York subway system.
“But part of the Secretary’s core message will be to ensure that actions are met with a real and sustained effort to constrain the ability of the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e Taiba, the Afghan Taliban, and other militants who pose a threat to regional stability and to direct US interests,” the official added.
In his talks in Islamabad, Secretary Kerry was also focusing on promoting better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to support improved Afghan-Pakistani relations, including on pretty sensitive issues like reconciliation,” the official said.
“And I know that Secretary Kerry will be looking to hear from the Pakistanis how they intend to take that conversation forward”.
He clarified that the secretary would not advance any new initiatives between India and Pakistan, but the United States believed that the India-Pakistan “relationship is an extremely important one to peace, stability, and security of South Asia, and as has long been the case,” the official said.
Published in Dawn January 13th , 2015