US official calls for action against militants before Pakistan visit

Published October 2, 2021
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.—AFP
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.—AFP

WASHINGTON: 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 on October 7-8 officials in Pakistan, which has long faced US accusations of “playing a double game in Afghanistan” where the Taliban swept back to power in August.

“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.

Praises Islamabad’s calls for an inclusive government in Afghanistan

Pakistan points to its efforts against militants and the thousands who have died in attacks at home, but it has also faced criticism for not doing more to curb radicals who target neighbour and arch-rival India.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime critic of US military campaigns, said in an interview aired on Friday that his government had opened talks with Pakistani Taliban about laying down their arms.

He said the discussions were taking place in Afghanistan with sections of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which has waged years of deadly attacks.

“I repeat, I do not believe in military solutions,” Mr Khan said.

He 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.

Ms 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, a Cold War ally of the United States, was one of only three nations to recognise the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime but quickly backed the US-led war to oust them after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2021

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