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‘Pakistan needs to be told US won’t tolerate terrorist safe havens’: US nominee for Under Secretary of Defence

WASHINGTON: The US should “make it clear” to Pakistan that the Trump administration will not tolerate Pakistan providing safe havens to terrorists, nominee for Under Secretary of Defence for Policy John C Rood said on Friday.

Rood said Pakistan’s failure to keep a check on terrorist safe havens was undermining US’s efforts in Afghanistan, compelling Washington to explore new options.

“Ultimately, we in the United States, have got a make it clear to the Pakistani government that we can’t tolerate that sort of support that will undermine our efforts in Afghanistan where our troops have been fighting and we’ve had over 2,000 of our Americans killed in that conflict,” Rood said during his confirmation hearing.

Rood was responding to a question from Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Rood said that Pakistan sheltering the Taliban and Haqqani network had been “a real undercut” to the US’s efforts in Afghanistan.

“..and unfortunately, this is a problem that’s persisted really over the 16 years of that conflict, a very stubborn problem to solve,” he said.

Rood also spoke about the new strategy, which calls for regionalising the approach, involving India more in the reconstruction and the support of the Afghan government.

“So, in addition to the US, involving a larger number of partners in a discussion with Pakistan is one potential avenue that may produce results,” he said.

McCain said over the years he has developed an excellent relationship with his friends in Pakistan.

“But there’s going to come a time where we have to tell them they have to choose and, of course, Chinese influence is increasing and as you know there is further turmoil that is ongoing as we speak,” McCain said.

“This is a very, very, very, complex and difficult challenge we’re facing, but we’ve tried everything that I know of, besides saying, “Look, you either help us or we’re going to have to change our relationship,” he said.

Earlier in a written answer to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rood said it is important for the US to maintain a constructive relationship with Pakistan to advance its mutual interests.

“However, the US should also demonstrate its serious concerns about Pakistan expanding its nuclear program and providing safe-haven for militant groups in its territory,” he said.

Sanctuary and freedom of movement for the Afghan Taliban and associated militant networks inside Pakistani territory continue to be contributing factors that negatively impact security conditions and stability inside Afghanistan, Rood said.

 “If confirmed,” Rood said, “I will examine ways in which US can end Pakistan’s sanctuary for militant networks”.
Randall Schriver, nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said if confirmed, he would review what steps the US, particularly the Department of Defence, could take to convince Pakistan to cut off support and sanctuary for militant and terrorist groups.

“I understand that the US seeks a constructive relationship with Pakistan that advances mutual interests, such as defeating ISIS and al Qaida, but we also have serious concerns about Pakistan’s expanding its nuclear program and providing safe-haven for militant groups in its territory,” Schriver said.

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