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US calls for action on Taliban safe havens, Pak envoy demands proof

The latest American demand came on the heels of the Taliban attack in a Kabul hotel that left 22 people including six foreigners dead last weekend.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2018 20:25 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washingrton
United States,White House,White House press secretary
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders at her media briefing in Washington on Monday.(REUTERS)

The Trump administration on Monday called upon Pakistan to “expel and arrest” Taliban leaders operating from its soil and prevent the terror group from operating from its territory.

“We call on Pakistan to immediately arrest or expel the Taliban’s leaders and prevent the group from using Pakistani territory to support its operations,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her daily briefing.

“In Afghanistan, where terrorists attacked a hotel in Kabul, such attacks on civilians only strengthen our resolve to support our Afghan partners,” she said, referring to an attack by the Taliban on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday night that left at least 22 people dead.

The six attackers were killed by Afghan forces, the government in Kabul said, without pointing to Pakistan.

Shortly after the White House implied a connection, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Relations — a leading Washington think tank — claimed his country had already evicted terrorists and their facilities, throwing an “open challenge” to anyone who could point to safe havens.

Chaudhry said his country’s military had “cleaned out” all terrorists, their “hideouts and sanctuaries and their IED (improvised explosive devices) factories” from Pakistan in operations since 2014.

“When somebody turns around and tells us that there are safe havens existing there, we say to them ‘please show us where’,” he said. “It’s been 10 months or so... we have been saying ‘please show us’... we will ourselves like to eliminate (the terrorists) if someone is hiding in any caves in Pakistan.”

Pakistan is facing mounting pressure from the US to take action against terror groups operating from its soil and dismantle their safe havens. President Donald Trump and senior officials in his administration have repeatedly called upon Islamabad to take action against terrorists — a notable display of toughness that was absent in previous administrations.

Trump set the ball rolling on New Year’s day, tweeting: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Days later, his administration announced it was suspending nearly $2 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan for its failure to take “decisive action” against terrorists operating from its soil. The US has kept up the pressure since.

But it appears from Chaudhry’s remarks that Islamabad will continue to deploy the same scripted defence that starts by blaming the United States for starting Pakistan down that path to combat Soviet Union in Afghanistan, abandoning it, and, finally, letting it clean up the resultant mess.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 09:06 IST