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Pakistan To Be Held Accountable For 'Failure' To Crack Down On Militants

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan (file photo)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan (file photo)

The State Department's No. 2 official has suggested that President Donald Trump's administration has so far seen no evidence that Pakistan has met its demands for a crackdown on militants operating in the country.

Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said on February 6 that Washington recognizes the "benefits of cooperation" with Pakistan and acknowledges the "enormous sacrifices the Pakistani people and security forces have made to combat terrorism."

But he also said that the United States intends to "hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to militant proxies."

Early last month, the U.S. government announced it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it took "decisive action" against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that are operating in neighboring Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the freeze could affect $2 billion worth of assistance.

"We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction," Sullivan said.

Islamabad denies harboring militant groups that carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

The deputy secretary of state, who met with President Ashraf Ghani and other top Afghan officials during a visit to Kabul last week, said they "reiterated their support for our strategy," and pledged to create "the conditions that will bring the Taliban to the negotiation table."

"We hope the Pakistanis will also help to convince the Taliban to enter a peace process," Sullivan added.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In recent weeks, Kabul has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

After the attack, Trump rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon.

"We don't want to talk with the Taliban," Trump said on January 29. "There may be a time, but it's going to be a long time."

Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.

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