Washington (Agencies): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Tuesday that Pakistan’s privileged status as a major non-NATO US ally could be in question if it continues to give safe haven to extremists.
“We have some leverage,” Tillerson told reporters, “in terms of aid, their status as a non-NATO alliance partner - all of that can be put on the table.”
Pakistan is one of 16 countries to currently enjoy “Major non-NATO Ally” status, which is not a mutual defense pact like the Atlantic alliance, but allows close military cooperation.
“The president has been clear that we are going to attack terrorists wherever they live,” Tillerson said.
“We have put people on notice that if you’re providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned — we are going to engage those providing safe haven and ask them to change what they are doing.”
And Tillerson added that, aside from the Afghan people, Pakistan has more to gain “than any other nation” from an end to the fighting. Tillerson said Pakistan must adopt a different approach to terrorism and the United States will condition its support on Islamabad’s delivering results in this area. “There’s been an erosion in trust because we have witnessed terrorist organisations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against US servicemen, US officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan,” Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.
“Pakistan must adopt a different approach, and we are ready to work with them to help them protect themselves against these terrorist organisations ... We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on delivering results in this area.” Tillerson said Pakistan has a role to play in getting Afghanistan’s Taliban to the negotiating table, saying the country must “adopt a different approach” to a conflict that the US entered almost 16 years ago.
Tillerson said he’ll adopt a “conditions-based diplomacy” toward the Afghan conflict and the role of neighboyring Pakistan. He said it is up to the Afghan people to determine how they want to govern themselves as long as they don’t offer safe havens to terrorists. On the Taliban, Tillerson said the group ousted by US forces in late 2001 should realise a battlefield victory is impossible. “We may not win one, but neither will you,” Tillerson said.
Meanwhile, a top American official said US could potentially include sanctioning Pakistani government officials with ties to terrorist groups such as Haqqani Network. National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton also said that with Pakistan the “business as usual as it has been up to now is over.”
“The important takeaway for the Pakistani government last night is that, you know, they should understand that they’re on notice from this president, from this administration,” Anton was quoted as saying by Politico. “The US has been really patient with Pakistan for a really long time. We haven’t been getting a good deal from them,” he added. Anton said the US could conceivably impose sanctions on terrorist groups including the Haqqani network, which has links to elements in the Pakistani government, as well as on any Pakistani officials who are tied to these kinds of groups.