Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Tuesday that Pakistan must change their approach by getting tough on the Taliban and insurgent fighters if it wants to maintain a strong relationship with the United States.
Echoing President Trump’s firm stance on Pakistan in his address on Monday, Tillerson told reporters in a briefing at the State Department Tuesday afternoon that he is on board with the President’s new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, stating that, “Pakistan and the U.S. historically had very good relationships, but over the last few years there has been a real erosion in the confidence between our two governments.”
Tillerson further recognized that, “There’s been an erosion in trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given a safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen and U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan.”
Tillerson reiterated that part of the Trump administration’s new military strategy for Afghanistan will be getting the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Acknowledging a change of mind after he took office in his address to the nation on Monday, President Trump announced that American troops will remain in Afghanistan. Declining to provide specific details on a troop increase and other information that would tip off our enemies, the President emphasized that elements of his new military strategy would be dictated by the conditions on the ground, rather than arbitrary timetables.
Secretary of State Tillerson on Tuesday defended the president’s decision not to reveal details on the plan, relaying in his interview that “We are not going to signal ahead what our plans are. We are not going to signal ahead an increase, a decrease, the timing.”
Once the decision is made to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan and troops have been deployed, Tillerson stated that the Pentagon would disclose an increase in U.S. troops, but no longer would the government give strategic military details before a mission is in full swing.
In his address on Monday, President Trump also took a firm stand on Pakistan, communicating that the U.S. would pressure Pakistan if they continue to provide “safe havens” for Taliban fighters.
Tillerson is in line with the President’s hard line on Pakistan. He agreed that the U.S. is “ready to work” to help Pakistan eradicate the Taliban fighters but said that Pakistan “must adopt a different approach,” adding that Pakistan could possibly play an important role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table over the war in Afghanistan.
“We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said. “We want to work with Pakistan in a positive way, but they must change their approach.”
Tillerson also responded to a reporter’s question on Tuesday, affirming that the U.S. would not rule out military strikes against terrorist “sanctuaries” inside Pakistan.
Both President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson recognize the emergence of India as a strategic partner in the region, and Tillerson admitted that the U.S. has had discussions with other nations such as China and Russia, in an attempt to end the longest of U.S. wars to date.
Tillerson concluded that the chief focus of the U.S. in Afghanistan is to facilitate a reconciliation through peaceful negotiations.
“Ultimately, it comes down to two parties — the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives,” Tillerson said.
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