Ahead of visit, top US official calls for Pakistan action on militants 'without distinction'

Published October 1, 2021
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Pakistani officials during her October 7-8 visit. — Reuters/File
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Pakistani officials during her October 7-8 visit. — Reuters/File

A top US official called on Friday for Pakistan to take action against all extremist groups ahead of a visit to Islamabad, which has sought reconciliation with militants both at home and in Afghanistan.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Pakistani officials during her October 7-8 visit.

“We seek a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism and we expect sustained action against all militant and terrorist groups without distinction,” Sherman told reporters.

“Both of our countries have suffered terribly from the scourge of terrorism and we look forward to cooperative efforts to eliminate all regional and global terrorist threats,” she said from Switzerland, her first stop on a trip that will also take her to India and Uzbekistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime critic of US military campaigns, said in an interview aired on Friday that the government had opened talks with some groups of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) about laying down their arms.

“Some of the Pakistani Taliban groups actually want to talk to our government for some peace, for some reconciliation,” he told Turkey's TRT World television.

He said the discussions were taking place in Afghanistan with sections of the TTP, which has waged years of deadly attacks.

“I repeat, I do not believe in military solutions,” the premier said.

Prime Minister Imran has encouraged the world to engage Afghanistan's Taliban and provide economic support, although he has stopped short of backing recognition — a step opposed by the United States.

Sherman praised Pakistan's calls for an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

“We look to Pakistan to play a critical role in enabling that outcome,” she said.

Pakistan was one of only three nations to recognise the Taliban's hardline 1996-2001 regime but quickly backed the US-led war to oust them after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Secretary Sherman is the highest-ranking career diplomat in the State Department as the Secretary of State, who is equivalent to a foreign minister in other countries, is always a political appointee. She is the highest-ranking US visitor to Pakistan under President Joe Biden and since Taliban’s victory in Kabul.

Last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his US counterpart Antony Blinken in New York on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Their talks focused on the current situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban ousted the pro-US Ghani government in mid-August. The takeover followed the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.

The US now wants Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to include other factions in government, respect human rights, allow women to work and girls to attend school.

Pakistan has assured the international community that it too wants an inclusive government in Kabul and will continue urging the Taliban to fulfil the promises they made to the international community.

But Islamabad has also warned the international community that its influence over the Taliban is limited and it cannot force them to do anything.

In his meeting with Secretary Blinken, Qureshi raised the Kashmir issue as well, telling the former that there could be no peace in South Asia until this decades-old dispute was settled.

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