US wants Pakistan to ‘turn over’ terrorists
The Trump administration has publicly said and acknowledged that it expects Pakistan to “do the right thing” and “turn over” terrorists to the US.
“We would hope that Pakistan would come to the table and that they would turn over those terrorists that we have asked be turned over,” Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public affairs, said at the state department’s daily briefing on Thursday. “We’ve indicated very clearly that we are – that we believe that can happen … They have not yet come forward.”
Goldstein’s statement comes a week after the administration suspended nearly $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan for its continued failure to take “decisive action” against terror groups operating on its soil. This was perhaps the first mention of one of “specific actions” US officials said they wanted Pakistan to undertake for the resumption of aid flow.
“Yes, the demand for handing over terrorists seems new,” said a long-time observer of US-Pakistan relations, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at Wilson Center, said, “So far as I understand, the US has previously demanded that Pakistan take action against specific terrorists—how many and what type is unclear, but I do know that there have been specific demands. For the US, asking that specific terrorists be turned over makes sense because it’s an easily measurable demand: either Pakistan turns them over or it doesn’t.”
There was no response from the state department to an emailed question if Goldstein’s remarks marked a departure from the norm.
Specific US requests to Pakistan have long been a subject of much speculation, especially after the administration indicated it was willing to work with its one-time ally “one more time”.
The United States had earlier never spelt out publicly the specific actions it wanted Pakistan to take, other than the overarching generic demand to deny safe haven to the Haqqani Network and the Taliban.
Secretary of state Rex Tillerson handed over a list of “specific asks” to the Pakistan leadership during a visit in October, but he never spelt out the details, neither did the state department.
Pakistan first said the list contained names of 75 terrorists and entities — but not Laskar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed,— and then pared it down to 20 names.
The United States did not confirm or deny either of those two claims, maintaining such conversations are privately conducted between two governments.
Some news reports have suggested the United States had asked for the custody of a Haqqani Network terrorist Pakistan had captured during the purported rescue of an American-Canadian family held captive by the outfit for five years.