The Taliban must “face the consequences” for calling off peace talks with the Afghan government, the US said today as it once again asked Pakistan to go after terrorists that threaten its neighbours.
“Unfortunately, the Taliban have refused to come to the table, so it is our view that they should face the consequences of that decision,” Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson told members of the House Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing.
“We’ve long expressed our concerns to the Pakistanis about their reluctance to go after terrorists that threaten their neighbours with the same degree of assiduousness that they go after their own terrorists. We think that they are at a moment of needing to make a very strategic and fundamental choice,” Olson said when asked what Pakistan is doing to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table.
“Their (Pakistan’s) stated policy, which we agree with, is not to discriminate among terrorist groups. We believe there is considerable room for improvement in the application of that policy on the ground and we believe in particular that Pakistan has not taken as vigorous action against groups that threaten its neighbours as it has against those that threaten it domestically,” he noted.
“So Pakistan has also been very helpful in the reconciliation process, but I do believe that there is a strategic choice right now. With the Taliban having refused to come to the table, it seems to us that it is time to address more robustly the question of groups that threaten Afghanistan,” Olson said.
The US, he said, has pressed the Pakistan government on its commitment not to discriminate among terrorist groups.
“We believe across regions there must be zero tolerance for safe havens,” he said. America’s relationship with Pakistan, a growing country with more than 190 million people, a nuclear arsenal, terrorism challenges and a key role to play in the region, will remain a critical one, he said.
“In Pakistan, we see the government in a concerted and difficult fight against terror groups that threaten Pakistanis. But unfortunately, Pakistan does not take equivalent steps against groups that threaten its neighbours,” Olson said.
“Our core initiatives in Pakistan, include promoting economic growth, countering terrorism, fostering regional stability and promoting the consolidation of democratic institutions. Let me emphasise, we have repeatedly and frankly underscored with most senior leaders of Pakistan that the Haqqani Network must be part of their wider counterterrorism operations in order to keep their commitment not to discriminate between terrorist organisations,” Olson said.