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Trump fires warning at Pakistan

US president says Washington will no longer tolerate Pakistan offering “safe havens” to extremists

Image Credit: AFP
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017.

Washington: President Donald Trump warned Pakistan on Monday that Washington will no longer tolerate Pakistan offering “safe havens” to extremists.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” Trump declared, outlining a new US security strategy in South Asia.

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Going further, Trump suggested that military and other aid to Washington’s nuclear-armed ally is at stake if it does not clamp down on extremism.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said.

“That will have to change and that will change immediately.

“It is time for Pakistan to dedicate to civilization and order and peace.”

Afghanistan strategy

In the same speech, Trump left the door open to an eventual political deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political sentiment that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said.

“But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he added, before vowing that “America will continue its support for the Afghan government and military as they confront the Taliban in the field.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump’s decision to pressure Pakistan and step up military operations in Afghanistan could help US diplomats build towards a political solution.

“Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines,” said Tillerson, in a statement issued after he attended Trump’s speech.

“We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.”

“We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions,” Tillerson promised.

“We look to the international community, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours, to join us in supporting an Afghan peace process.”

Boosting troop numbers

In a statement after Trump’s speech, US Defence Secretary James Mattis announced that America and several allies have committed to boosting their troop numbers in Afghanistan

Senior White House officials say Trump has already authorized Mattis to deploy up to 3,900 more troop.

"I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president's strategy," Mattis said in the statement.

"I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of Nato and our allies – several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers," Mattis said.