US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday said that Pakistan has taken positive steps in its crackdown on terrorist groups but that a lot more work still needs to be done.
Addressing a press briefing she said: “We’ve certainly seen Pakistan take some positive steps in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done, in terms of Pakistan cracking down not just on the Taliban, but the Haqqani Network and other terror networks as well.”
She also told journalists that Vice President Mike Pence met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday. “They talked about the overall South Asia strategy, the administration’s South Asia strategy, and that’s one of the things that the Vice President addressed with him.
“He said the government of Pakistan has to do more to address the continued presence of terrorism in Pakistan. There’s a lot more that they can do, but they can also play a critical role in the – with the Taliban in getting the Taliban to come to the table in Pakistan,” she said.
This comes after the Pentagon on Monday said that the US had no plans to send in US forces, from Afghanistan, into Pakistan in order to target insurgent groups.
“We have no authority to go into Pakistan,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews told Pajhwok news agency.
US forces could ask for authority to chase Taliban fighters as they cross the border into Pakistan, but approval for such action “would certainly be the exception and not the norm,” he said.
He said there is no change with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.
In the past the US military has defended its right to pursue Taliban forces retreating into Pakistan under its “inherent right of self-defense.
In rare cases, the US military has pursued Taliban fighters as they crossed the border into Pakistan after battling US forces in Afghanistan. In turn Pakistan has responded furiously to such incursions.
The Long War Journal reported that currently, the US carries out covert airstrikes using unmanned Predators and Reapers against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
There have been eight such strikes inside Pakistan so far in 2018, the report stated.
“If the Taliban reside in Pakistan and we are able to provide safety and support and to help secure districts and provinces within Afghanistan, I think that is a tradeoff that we're willing to make. Because it's not necessarily about these people over in Pakistan, it is about the Afghan people,” Andrews said to Pajwhok.
This however comes after Pakistan’s director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major Gen. Asif Ghafoor said last week that all terrorist sanctuaries including Haqqani network had been eliminated in the country.
In an interview with Gulf News, he said: “Pakistan has paid a huge price in this campaign, including losing over 75,000 lives and bearing a loss of more than $123 billion USD to the national exchequer.”
He also stated that over 200,000 Pakistani troops have been deployed along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and said Pakistan continues to fence the entire 2,611km length of the de facto border.