The Trump administration today asserted that it firmly supports the territorial integrity of Pakistan and does not support Baloch insurgency or any group that threatens this country. A day earlier, the US announced a USD 5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Afghanistan-based Maulana Fazlullah, leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an outfit which carries out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. Under its rewards for justice program, the US also announced a USD 3 million reward each for information on Abdul Wali, of Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA), and leader of Lashkar-e-Islam Mangal Bagh.
“We firmly support Pakistan’s territorial integrity. We do not support a Baluch and surgeons or the threat of a irredentism against Pakistan,” Alice Wells, Senior Bureau Official in South and Central Asia wing of State Department told a Washington audience. Wells, who is the State Department point person for South and Central Asia, in the absence of a full-fledged Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia said during her appearance at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) that the message of the Trump administration is that any group or any terrorist group threatening any country in the region has to be opposed.
She also referred to the announcement of rewards by the US for three TTP leaders. “We oppose groups that are targeting Pakistan. Of course, we oppose groups that are targeting Afghanistan,” she said in response to a question. The United States, she said, has not yet seen “decisive or sustained changes” in Pakistan’s behaviour and as a result, “we suspended our military assistance,” she said. “But we are not walking away from Pakistan. This relationship is important to us and we’re continuing our intensive dialogue through both our military and civilian channels to discuss how we can work together better,” she said, adding that a day before Deputy Secretary John Sullivan and she met with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
Pakistan, she said, has an important role to play in a peace process, and in stabilising Afghanistan. “We believe that Pakistan can help change and shape the calculus of the Taliban. We are engaged with Pakistan on how we can work together as well as address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns through a negotiated process,” she said. “Pakistani officials have long expressed concerns ranging from border management to refugees to terrorism that emanates from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, and these are issues that need to be addressed during the course of a reconciliation process,” Wells said.
She said that senior officials of the US and Pakistan are engaged in an “intensive dialogue”.
“We have a calibrated our relationship with Pakistan in a very different way than other administrations. We’ve gone much further and underscored the importance and the centrality of this issue to our ability to expand relations with Pakistan,” Wells said.