WASHINGTON: The US has asked Pakistan to go after terrorists especially the Taliban leadership, days after an American drone killed Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in the country’s troubled Balochistan province.
“We continue to cooperate closely with Afghanistan, but also urge Pakistan to go after terrorists, especially Taliban leadership, and that cooperation continues,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Meanwhile, a former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, James B Cunningham, said the drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour inside Pakistan should send a signal that the United States will not tolerate terrorist safe havens.
“I hope that this is the beginning of a message that we will not tolerate any more the strategic challenge that is posed by the leadership of the Taliban being in Pakistan and having a safe haven there. I hope that this is the beginning of a new phase in the effort to bring the Taliban into a political discussion,” he told the Atlantic Council.
“It is rumored that senior parts of the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) may have been involved in setting Mansour up. The official account is that we informed Pakistan of the strike after it took place. In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, conspiracy rumors will circulate for some time,” he said.
Cunningham hoped that this would force Pakistan to rethink the wisdom of providing safe heavens to terrorists.
“I would hope so. I have seen some commentary from some Pakistani observers that this may encourage a rethinking of the policy that the ISI has been pursuing. That is what is necessary. That’s what we, the US, have been arguing for years; that’s what we need to find a way to accomplish,” he said
“We have a core strategic objective here, which is to bring the conflict to an end. In order to do that we need to make clear to the Taliban leaders that they will not prevail by terror and by military means. And we, the international community, need to make clear to the ISI that we are no longer going to tolerate the kind of policy that they have been pursuing,” the former top American diplomat said.
Cunningham argued that to really get to a peace discussion, the Taliban have to come to the conclusion that the option of military force and terror will not get them back to the establishment of the emirate, which is what they want.
“In order for that to happen, the status quo needs to be disrupted and that means we need to find a way to impact the safe havens in Pakistan,” he argued.