Tillerson’s cold welcome in Pakistan

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on October 24 arrived in Pakistan amid wearing ties between both the countries with Washington accusing Pakistan of providing ‘safe havens’ to militants in its tribal areas. Surprisingly, Tillerson was greeted at the military airport by a mid-level Pakistani Foreign Office official and the U.S. Ambassador David Hale; with such visits in the past usually highlighted by high level Pakistani officials receiving US dignitaries.

This was also the first high level trip by a US official post Trump’s Afghan policy speech, where he asked Pakistan to do more in eliminating terror groups on its territory. Trump’s statement had further soured already fragile relations, especially with Pakistan now looking eastward for new alliances. Tillerson met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other top officials including ministers for interior, foreign affairs and defence.

Tillerson brought with himself the years’ old US narrative of ‘do more’ where he “reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy said October 24. On a positive note, Tillerson also appreciated Pakistan for the sacrifices it made in fighting militancy and for its help in securing the release of a U.S.-Canadian family held captive by the Taliban for five years.

The following press release was issued by the US embassy in Islamabad, detailing Tillerson’s meetings with various Pakistani officials:

In Islamabad, Secretary Tillerson met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who also chaired an interagency meeting attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif; Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal; Minister of Defense Khurram Dastigir Khan; Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua; Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa; Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, and other officials.

The Secretary discussed our continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region.

The Secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country.  To address those concerns, the Secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region.  The Secretary noted that Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States.

In all meetings with Pakistan’s leaders, the Secretary expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.  The Secretary also expressed his gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity


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