US expects Imran Khan to act against all 'externally-oriented' terror groups
Pakistan’s new Prime minister Imran Khan will be held to the same standards as previous governments, the US seemed to signal on Monday as it put terrorism front and centre in the context of bilateral ties and reiterated its expectations to see the south Asian country do more against “externally-oriented terrorist groups”.
“We have expressed our concern over the fact that terrorist proxy groups continue to be able to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan. We are urging the government to do more to bring pressure to bear against these organisations externally-oriented terrorist groups,” Alice Wells, the head of South and Central Asian bureau at the state department, told reporters.
Wells was asked about expectations regarding the Haqqani Network, an affiliate of Afghan Taliban that operates out of sanctuaries in Pakistan. But she broadened her reply to “externally-oriented terrorist groups”, which would include the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad — groups that operate across the country’s eastern border against India.
The Trump administration has been deeply sceptical of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and the billions it has claimed as compensation and reimbursement for participating in them. It suspended $2 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan in earlier this year and has let bilateral relations slide.
Washington has so far been cool to the Khan government, having already expressed reservations about the fairness of the elections. The new prime minister has not yet been called by President Donald Trump, secretary of state Mike Pompeo or anyone senior in the administration.
Pompeo will visit Islamabad in September to meet Khan, on his way to New Delhi for the inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue. But that is the extent of the attention the US is willing to accord to Khan.
For years, Khan has been vocal in his opposition to US-led counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan, especially strikes by remotely operated drones. He has also been critical of the US for tying aid payments to counter-terrorism, arguing that it’s an unequal relationship. But he has not shown any inclinations to change it.
At the same time, the US has not displayed a willingness to ease up pressure.