Washington/Islamabad: US President Donald Trump has put Pakistan on notice for providing safe haven to the Taliban and other militant groups, Vice-President Mike Pence has said, warning that the country has much to lose if it does not stop harbouring terrorists on its soil.
Pence’s remarks came during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to assess ground realities in the war-torn country. During his visit on Thursday, Pence held meetings with top Afghan leadership to hear from them the progress on the implementation of Trump’s new South Asia Policy.
Trump while announcing his South Asia Policy in August had criticised Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terrorism.
“For too long Pakistan has provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations, but those days are over. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice,” Pence told American troops at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
“As the President said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the US, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists,” the vice-president said, issuing another stern warning to Pakistan.
Pakistan on Friday reacted sharply to Pence’s remarks.
Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson said Pence’s statement was at “variance” with the “extensive conversations” Pakistan had with the US administration.
“Allies do not put each other on notice. On notice should be those factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of governance, and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said.
“Also focus should be on creating peace and reconciliation mechanisms. Finally, externalising blame should be put on notice.”
Speaking at the Bagram airbase, Pence said Trump has unleashed the full range of American military might.
“We’ve lifted the restrictions that limited the effectiveness of our armed forces, so you can, as the President has said, fully and swiftly wage battle against the enemy,” Pence said.
The Trump administration, he said, has given troops new authorities to directly target terrorists no matter where they hide.
Trump has empowered battlefield commanders with the freedom and flexibility they need to win, Pence said, adding the president’s new strategy is already bearing fruit all across Afghanistan.
“For the partnerships we have forged and are continuing to forge to achieve peace and security here in Afghanistan but also ensure that peace and security for the people of the United States,” Pence told reporters after his meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah.