WASHINGTON: The United States has asked the Pakistanis to squeeze the Taliban and the Haqqani network but that does not necessarily mean taking overt military action against them, says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also acknowledged that the Pakistani Taliban had built safe havens in Afghanistan.
In two interviews to US media outlets, released by the State Department on Monday, Secretary Clinton indicated that the US was not planning to send ground troops into Fata to target terrorist hideouts.
“There’s a lot going on that is aimed at these safe havens, and we will continue to work with them on that,” she said when asked if during her meetings with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad last week she had told them that the US might have to launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan. “There are different ways of fighting besides overt military action, and I think this is an important point of clarification,” she said when asked if the US wanted Pakistan to launch another military operation against the militants.
“We have asked the Pakistanis to squeeze the Taliban and the Haqqani network. We recognise that, given their resources, it would be difficult for them to launch military action at this time.”
The secretary said that instead of asking for a direct military operation, the US wanted Pakistan to “make sure we are totally synced up on all intelligence”, to intercept and prevent attacks emanating from the safe havens in Fata.
This, she explained, meant going after funding and couriers and working together to interrupt the militants’ abilities to operate.
Secretary Clinton also showed a greater understanding of Pakistan’s complaint that Kabul had allowed the Pakistani Taliban to build safe havens inside Afghanistan and said that in her meetings with Pakistani leaders she acknowledged their existence.
“We shared information about what we’re seeing happening on the other side of the border in Afghanistan, because we admitted there are safe havens there from which Pakistan is attacked, which I believe it’s important to acknowledge,” she said.
“No, no,” said the secretary when an interviewer suggested if the US was giving Pakistan more time to think if they want to take actions against the Afghan Taliban or not.
“What we did which was so important was to reach an understanding ... and I came away believing that we’ve cleared the air, we had set some clear parameters, and now we have to get about the hard work of actually operationalising what our agreement is.”
The US and Pakistan, she said, were also looking to figure out “how to sequence a peace process that makes sense. And we’ve asked for their advice and their help in doing both of those.”
Both countries now needed to accelerate the planning, working together on what were their common objectives, said Secretary Clinton, while noting that “what had been lost in the uproar over several of the controversies during the past year is that we do have common objectives, but we see it differently.”
Explaining why she believed her visit had helped reduce tensions between the two countries, the chief US diplomat urged Americans also to appreciate Pakistan’s position on various issues.
“It’s important for Americans to recognise that there are different timetables that operate in different countries about how to move effectively,” she said. “For the Pakistanis, it was moving troops off their border with India, which took a huge decision by their government, their military, but they began to do it.”
The Pakistanis, she noted had lost 30,000 people in the war against terror. “And they look at us and they say don’t you understand how hard this is for us? And we say yes, we do, but let’s try to increase our cooperation because it’s also important for us that we move together. So I would only caution that despite the frustration and sometimes the disappointment, we have to be clear that Pakistan must be part of the solution. There is no alternative.”