WASHINGTON: The United States wants to work with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure that neither country’s soil is used against the other country, says Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.
Ambassador Wells, who is the State Department’s point person for South Asia and also a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at a recent news briefing that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conveyed this message to Pakistani leaders when he visited Islamabad late last month.
Later, while reviewing his visit to South Asia with the State Department press corps, Secretary Tillerson revealed that he also told Pakistani leaders that Washington was willing to help Pakistan lower its tensions with India.
The two offers, however, were overshadowed by the negative publicity generated by US President Donald Trump’s Aug 21 policy speech, which was interpreted in both Islamabad — with some dismay — and New Delhi — gleefully — as the declaration of US intent to abandon Pakistan.
But no senior official expressed such a desire in his or her statement, either before the media or at recent congressional hearing. “I made the observation to them, ‘You have two very troubled borders. You have one in Afghanistan, you have one with India,’ and that we’re willing to help on both of those borders,” said Secretary Tillerson while briefing the media about his Islamabad visit.
He said he told Pakistani leaders he had not come to Islamabad just to talk about the situation on the Afghan border. “We’re also here to talk about how we can lower the tensions on the border with India, and there are legitimate concerns on both sides of that border as well.”
Secretary Tillerson reiterated this point at another briefing, saying: “Pakistan lives with two very unstable borders, one with Afghanistan, one with India and our message to them is, ‘You have to begin to create greater stability inside your country and that means denying safe haven to any of these organisations that launch attacks from your territory’.”
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2017