Monday May 20, 2024

US doesn't want Afghanistan to be 'safe haven' for terrorists

State Dept says Washington regularly engages with Pakistan on "counterterrorism cooperation"

By Web Desk
March 20, 2024
US State Departments Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel. — X/@StateDeputySpox
US State Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel. — X/@StateDeputySpox

State Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel has reiterated Washington's stance on Afghan soil being used as a launchpad for terror attacks in Pakistan, stating that Washington doesn't want Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorists.

Patel also acknowledged the security challenges that Pakistan is facing as a result of the terror threats from its Western neighbour, asserting that the US regularly engages with Islamabad on counterterrorism cooperation

The spokesperson's statement came during a press briefing on Tuesday, responding to a question about the Taliban's expansionism in the region.

"Well, look, we’ve been very clear about the fact that we do not want Afghanistan to be a — be or become a safe haven for terrorism. And when it comes to counterterrorism cooperation with our Pakistani partners, that’s something we engage with them on quite regularly in — as — including other important bilateral consultations with them as well," Patel said.

Washington's statement with regards to the security situation in Pakistan and its link to Afghanistan comes a day after it regretted the loss of lives in an attack on Pakistan on Monday following the conduct of intelligence-based operations (IBOs) by Pakistani forces in the border regions inside Afghanistan against terrorists launching attacks from Afghan soil.

The operation by Pakistan was conducted in the wake of the March 16 attack in North Waziristan's Mir Ali area during which at least seven Pakistan Army soldiers — including a lieutenant colonel and captain — were martyred.

"We urge the Taliban to ensure that terrorist attacks are not launched from Afghan soil, and we urge Pakistan to exercise restraint and ensure civilians are not harmed in their counterterrorism efforts. And we urge both sides to address any differences," the deputy spokesperson said in a statement.

Media landscape in Pakistan 'open' for dissent

Meanwhile, Patel — during the latest press briefing — also responded to a query comparing the conduct of elections in Pakistan and Russia owing to a similar environment for the parties in opposition and in government.

"I would take a little bit of issue with comparing both of those democratic processes," Patel said.

He added that Pakistan has a little bit more of a robust media landscape open for dissenting ideas and opinions, while there is a clear track record of media suppression, of silencing dissenting voices in Russia.

Responding to the query in light of people's choices in both elections, the spokesperson said: "These are decisions that should be made by the people of these countries, and the people of these countries should have choices."

Patel elaborated that people should have access to information that "will help inform their decision-making when it comes to who they want to lead their country and the direction that they want to take their country in."

Hasan-Hussain Nawaz case 'internal matter'

Patel was also questioned about the recent acquittal of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif’s sons — Hasan and Hussain — in a corruption case with regards to the "big role" of the country's "administration" in it.

"Does the US not feel bad that such corrupt people are back to Pakistan to rule again?" the spokesperson was asked.

He, however, asserted that a Pakistani court case is an internal matter. But did mention that the State Department has spoken "a little bit" about it in discussing the US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome’s bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

"There is a number of issues that I’m sure he looks forward to discussing with the finance minister, and so I will let our team in Islamabad speak more about that at its conclusion," Patel maintained.