U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo says the United States wants to draw the Taliban into peace talks in Afghanistan, but for that to happen, he says Pakistan must first ensure the militants cannot establish safe havens within its borders.
In a speech on October 19 at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank, Pompeo said for peace talks to move ahead, the Taliban must have no hope of winning on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
But he said that will not happen as long as the militants are able to establish sanctuaries in Pakistan.
The United States "is going to do everything we can, to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan, with the Taliban having zero hope that they can win this thing on the battlefield," he said. "To do that you cannot have a safe haven in Pakistan."
U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the presence on its territory of the Afghan Taliban and its allied Haqqani extremist network -- a charge Islamabad denies.
Seemingly to illustrate his point, Pompeo disclosed for the first time that the Central Intelligence Agency believes a U.S.-Canadian couple kidnapped by Haqqani militants in Afghanistan in 2012 were held in capitivity in Pakistan for five years before being freed last week.
His statement that American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were "held for five years inside of Pakistan" contradicted accounts offered by Pakistani officials, who said last week the family was rescued in Pakistan shortly after they crossed over from Afghanistan.
Pompeo's remarks targeting Pakistan reflect U.S. President Donald Trump's new strategy of placing pressure on Islamabad to rid its border area of extremist groups as part of a new push to try to win or end the 16-year U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Washington has threatened to cut military aid and take other punitive measures against Islamabad, including possibly targeting sanctions against Pakistani officials with links to militant organizations.
Islamabad has called the U.S. strategy an effort to "scapegoat" Pakistan for Washington's failure to win the war. But Pakistani officials last week also touted the hostage rescue as an example of their increased cooperation with Washington.
"I think history would indicate that expectations for the Pakistanis' willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism should be set at a very low level," Pompeo said.
"I think we should have a very real conversation with them about what it is they're doing, and what it is they should do, and the American expectations for how they should behave," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Islamabad next week. Tillerson said on October 18 that the United States expected Pakistan "to take decisive action against terrorist groups."
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters