US envoy reminds Pakistan of pledge in anti-terror fight

Updated May 23, 2017

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RAWALPINDI: US Ambassador David Hale calls on Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ on Monday.—PPI
RAWALPINDI: US Ambassador David Hale calls on Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ on Monday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: US Ambassador David Hale on Monday hoped Pakistan would live up to its pledge of not allowing terrorists to use its soil against any other country as he called for greater Pak-US cooperation for peace and stability in the region.

Ambassador Hale made this observation during a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters, which looked like a close follow-up to US President Donald Trump’s speech at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh in which he had called on Muslim countries to ensure that “terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil”. The US president had called it as the first needed step in the combined effort to defeat terrorism.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, meanwhile, in its statement said: “COAS (Gen Bajwa) reiterated Pakistan’s stance that its soil is not being used for terrorist activities against any other country nor shall we tolerate any such action against Pakistan.”

The US ambassador while meeting the army chief recalled that President Trump had in his Riyadh speech talked “for a vision of peace, security, and prosperity, and unity in conquering extremism and terrorism”.

Mr Hale’s meeting with Gen Bajwa also comes ahead of the Nato Summit in Brussels on Thursday. President Trump is expected to unveil his administration’s policy on Afghanistan at the summit, which could include an increase in the numbers of US troops deployed in that country.

Afghanistan currently has 8,400 US troops. It is widely speculated that President Trump could add another 3,000 – 5,000 in a bid to break the stalemate in the war in Afghanistan. The announcement could also see a change in the role of the troops deployed in the war-torn country. US and Nato troops are currently on a non-combat mission for advising and training the Afghan army, but they could get a combat role under the new policy.

Mr Trump had a brief meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of Riyadh Summit.

The two statements on the GHQ meeting issued by the US embassy and ISPR pointed to the American ambassador taking up the issue of alleged Taliban sanctuaries on Pakistani soil. Furthermore, it was unusual for the US embassy to issue a statement on the ambassador’s meeting with the army chief. Such press announcements are usually made by the ISPR only.

The US embassy said: “Ambassador Hale thanked General Bajwa for his public commitment on May 18 that Pakistan is taking measures to ensure that militants do not use Pakistan’s soil to conduct attacks against any country. In this vein, during their meeting General Bajwa offered renewed assurances that Pakistan would not permit its territory to be used to plan or conduct attacks against Afghanistan.” The US embassy noted that both Ambassador Hale and Gen Bajwa “reiterated their nations’ commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan”.

The ISPR quoted Ambassador Hale as telling the army chief that the US and Pakistan could work for peace and stability in the region through enhanced coordination and cooperation.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2017