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US won’t resume security aid to Pak till it allays concerns on ‘terror safe havens’

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Washington, Mar 20 :The US will not resume security aid to Pakistan until it addresses America’s concerns on “terrorist safe havens”, the Pentagon said, underlining that Islamabad’s action against militants would not only help Afghanistan but also protect India and the entire region.

The US in January suspended more than USD 1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of harbouring terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network within its border and showing unwillingness to take decisive actions against them.

In addition, the Department of Defense had suspended the entire USD 900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) money to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017.

“The US government has been very honest and open both publicly and privately with Pakistan on the things that they need to address before we can move forward with the resumption of the aid that has been suspended,” Lt Col Mike Andrews, a spokesperson of the Department of Defence told PTI.

But at the same time, he also noted that except for exceptional circumstances – that too on a case-by-case basis with approval from the authorities – it has no plans to cross the international border in striking terrorists across the border from Afghanistan.

Andrews recently returned from Afghanistan wherein he accompanied the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

The focus of Mattis’ trip to Afghanistan last week was to review the progress of the South Asia Policy in the war-torn country and to see the preparedness of the Afghan security forces.

“I won’t get into real specifics. The sanctuaries inside of Pakistan where were Taliban fighters can go over the border, can attack and come back and be safe… safe from Pakistani authorities, whether it’s law enforcement or military, that is certainly something that we need to, we need to see (to be addressed by Pakistan),” Andrews said when asked about the specific demands of the US to Pakistan.

Refusing to go into specific details, as they get into intelligence realm, he said that Pakistan is aware of the expectations of the US.

“We are hopeful that they take that action because not only do we feel that it is going to serve Afghanistan, but it’s going to help protect Pakistan, India, and the entire region,” he said.

“These are terrorists groups, and, if the region allows them to exist, that’s not good for the region. So if Pakistan does this, it would be good for Pakistan, Afghanistan, good for India, be good for the entire region. That’s what we want a safe and secure region where terrorists cannot launch attacks like 9/11 or launch attacks into Europe or into India,” he said.

“That’s the reason that request has been made. We are hopeful that the Pakistanis will responded,” Andrews said.

Responding to questions, Andrews the US forces have no plan to cross the international border to hunt terrorists.

“To be clear, US military authorities are within the borders of Afghanistan only. We have no authority to go into Pakistan. If there is a way to get that authority, but that would certainly be the exception and not the norm and would not be,” he said.

“Say for example, we had troops in contact and then the Taliban forces go across the border. They are clearly inside Pakistan then we will not engage. There’s no change to with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan. We will not be going into Pakistan.

“Like I said there, there could be exceptions to that, but it is not going to be a normal day to day operational rules of engagement that our commanders on the ground know,” the spokesperson of the Pentagon said.

It is the expectation of the US, he said that that Pakistan takes steps to ensure that there are no sanctuaries where Taliban or other terror organisations can reside and where they think that they are safe from the US.

“That’s something that Pakistan is going to have to do,” Andrews said in response to a question.

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