WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s support can help destabilise the Taliban far more rapidly than US military operations alone could, says Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In statements released to the media since last Saturday, when a US drone strike eliminated Taliban chief Mullah Mansour in Balochistan, US officials and lawmakers have repeatedly urged Pakistan to take immediate action against the militants reported to be hiding inside Pakistan.
At the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing on Thursday afternoon that this was part of “an ongoing conversation” that the United States has had with authorities in Pakistan.
“They need to address all groups operating on their soil — Taliban groups that are operating on their soil and their territory,” he claimed. “We’ve urged them to do so in the past. We continue to urge them to do so and have worked with them on addressing the very real threat on their own soil.”
Another US official reminded Pakistan that the alleged “remaining terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s borders … afford extremists the ability to undermine Afghanistan’s stability and target US and coalition forces in Afghanistan”.
While US officials were careful not to directly blame Pakistan for the presence of militants in the region, US lawmakers were not. They directly blamed Pakistan for “hiding and protecting” the militants of Haqqani network who, they claimed, were targeting US and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
Senator Corker said that while Mullah Mansour’s elimination was “an important victory in the fight against terror,” such strikes alone could not achieve the desired result of uprooting the Taliban movement.
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“If Pakistan would play a more constructive role, we could destabilise the Taliban far more rapidly,” he added.
Mr Corker is the same senator who blocked US financing for the F-16 sale to Pakistan, and reflects the new negative mood on Capitol Hill where it is becoming increasingly difficult to lobby for Pakistan.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the United States and Pakistan had conflicting interests. He claimed that while Pakistan continued to receive financial assistance from the US, it was not ready to root out those terrorists who allegedly used its soil for targeting American troops in Afghanistan.
“I think there’s certainly a growing impatience in Congress,” he said.
Congressman Schiff also noted that while Pakistan had objected to the strike, the response had been somewhat “muted,” likely because they knew the US action was right.
“I think that Pakistan must realise that they’ve got some serious problems in Congress, in terms of the relationship”, said Mr Schiff. The Pakistanis are “desperately eager to have the support and military aircraft and don’t want to jeopardise that”.
John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also urged stepped up coalition attacks on the Taliban but he did not criticise Pakistan for its alleged failure to do so.
“Our troops are in Afghanistan today for the same reason they deployed there in 2001 — to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for global terrorists,” he said.
Last week, Senator McCain moved a bill for setting up a new $800 million fund for reimbursing Pakistan for its efforts in the war against terrorists. This would replace the Coalition Support Fund, which expires in October.