In the sharpest denouncement yet of Pakistan’s support for terrorism by the Donald Trump administration, United States national security adviser HR McMaster expressed frustration on Sunday with Islamabad’s continued use of “proxies that engage in violence”.
“As all of us have hoped for many, many years — we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past,” he told ToloNews, an Afghan TV channel.
“The best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through the use of diplomacy, and not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” the national security adviser added in the interview during a visit to Afghanistan.
That “elsewhere” was interpreted among India watchers in the US as the Trump administration’s nod to New Delhi’s concerns about terrorist strikes carried out in India by outfits based in Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
McMaster goes next to Pakistan and India in the midst of a review of the new administration’s policy for the region that is being closely watched on the subcontinent and among South Asia policy experts and pundits in DC.
McMaster’s remarks were the first clearest indication of the Trump administration’s thinking on South Asia, specially Pakistan’s role in hosting and exporting terrorism across its borders with India on the east and Afghanistan on the west.
The US has long been frustrated by Pakistan’s support for terrorist outfits operating from its territories against American-led international coalition forces in Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda outfits.
And in recent years, the United States displayed mounting exasperation with, as many lawmakers have said, Pakistan’s duplicity in looking askance at terrorists based on its soil while accepting American aid for exterminating them.
Their frustration is not limited to terrorists operating in Afghanistan only, but also to those carrying out strikes in India — specially the 2008 Mumbai attack by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, in which many Americans were killed.
McMaster’s visit and his remarks are being closely followed on the sub-continent for indications to Trump administration’s thinking on the region, and its policy in the light of mounting pressure to get tough with Islamabad.
A report authored and released earlier in the yer by Lisa Curtis, an expert with right-leaning Heritage Foundation who is joining Trump’s national security team, and Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, was specially scathing.
It recommended that the Trump administration should be prepared to get tough with Pakistan over its patchy counterterrorism record and should keep on the table the option of declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism.