Pakistan will face consequences like losing the major non-NATO ally status if it continues to provide safe heavens to terror groups, two top US leaders have warned, a day after President Donald Trump put Islamabad on notice for harbouring militants.
Trump came down heavily on Pakistan for its support to terror groups, saying the country receives billions of dollars in US aid but continues to harbour militants. By providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan, Trump warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists. Defence Secretary James Mattis said that the Trump administration will surely take action against Pakistan in this regard this time.
He was responding to a question on a similar rhetoric in the past, but the US had shown reluctance in taking action against Islamabad.
“The words (of Trump) were very tough, but those words have been said before. What’s actually going to be done to sort or align that with the strategy?” Mattis was asked.
“I understand the question. You’ll just have to watch it unfold in order to really get the answer to it,” Mattis who is currently on a trip to the Middle East told reporters travelling with him.
Mattis has directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out Trump’s strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO and our allies?several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers. Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hubs,” he said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that Pakistan’s status as a non-NATO ally is now in question. “We have some leverage that’s been discussed in terms of the amount of aid and military assistance we give them; their status as a non-NATO alliance partner. All of that can be put on the table.
“But at the end of the day, Pakistan has to decide what is in Pakistan’s best long-term interest from a security standpoint for themselves and for their people,” he said. The Taliban and other organisations inside Pakistan seem to be growing their numbers and their presence to the point that at some point they would become a real threat to the stability of the Pakistani government itself, he said. Tillerson said that the Trump administration is adopting conditions-based diplomacy.
“Pakistan and the US historically had very good relationships. But over the last few years, there’s been a real erosion in the confidence between our two governments. “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...,” he said.
Tillerson did not rule out use of American military resources to attack terrorists if there were actionable intelligence.
“We’re going to attack terrorists wherever they live and we have put people on notice if you’re harbouring and providing safe haven to terrorists,” he said. The greatest benefactor other than the Afghan people themselves, to achieving stability and peace in Afghanistan are the people of Pakistan. They will benefit more than any other nation, Tillerson said.