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US ready to assist Pakistan in dealing with outlawed TTP threat

Spokesman Ned Price says US aware of Bannu situation; Wants to see constructive dialogue between Pakistan, India
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price gestures at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, US on February 28, 2022. Reuters
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price gestures at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, US on February 28, 2022. Reuters

The US administration has offered its help to Pakistan in dealing with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) threat as the banned outfit members have seized control of the counterterrorism department (CTD) in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Well, first on the ongoing situation in Pakistan, we are of course aware,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said while addressing a news briefing on Monday. “We’ve been closely following reports that militants have seized control of the counterterrorism center in Bannu.”

He was responding to a query on the siege of CTD centre in Bannu that started on Sunday and continues today (Tuesday) as the stalemate continues. Price was asked whether he sees in the coming days any over-the-horizon or under-the-horizon drones coming back to the region and targeting such terrorist groups, or the situation has not gotten that worse yet.

Price, after offering his deepest sympathies to those injured, said: “We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to take on – to help them take on this challenge.”

He urged those responsible for the attack to cease all acts of violence, to safely release those who remain hostage, and to end the seizure of the counterterrorism center. Sources said that around 10 staff members were taken hostage by the militants, with three casualties being reported.

“Of course we refer you to the Government of Pakistan for details on this ongoing situation. But the broader point is that the Government of Pakistan is a partner when it comes to these shared challenges, including the challenge of terrorist groups – terrorist groups inside of Afghanistan, terrorist groups along the Afghan-Pakistan border.”

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has warned the terrorists of dire consequences if they did not lay down arms. It has maintained that the militants would not be treated lightly.

When another journalist pressed the State Department to explain what kind of assistance the US could offer to Pakistan to crush the terrorist group, Price gave a brief response but reiterated that the administration was ready to help Pakistan.

“Well, of course, Pakistan is an important security partner. There are groups that are present in Afghanistan, in the Afghan-Pakistan border region that present a clear threat as we’re seeing not only to Pakistan but potentially to countries and people beyond,” he said, “so we’re in regular dialogue with our Pakistani partners. We are prepared to help them take on the threats they face, but I think the details of that cooperation are best left in diplomatic channels.”

Noor Wali Mehsud, the chief of the banned outfit, last week in an interview with CNN said that they were attacking Pakistan from within its soil while attempting to dodge a question about apparently getting support from the Afghan regime—its ideological twin next door.

Since the end of a shaky ceasefire agreed with the government in November, the TTP has staged many attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. But, many locals say they had seen the reentry of armed people in the mountainous area of the KP months before the announcement as part of the negotiations started by the former government of PTI.

Not wanting to see ‘war of words’ between India, Pakistan

Question pertaining to Pakistan and India relations against the backdrop of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s statement on PM Modi and the Indian minister’s allegations against Islamabad was also asked during the briefing.

Price started by saying that the US has a “global strategic partnership” with India and a “deep partnership” with Pakistan.

“These relationships in our mind are not zero-sum. We don’t view them in relation to one another,” he said, adding that each of them was indispensable to the administration and to the promotion and the pursuit of the shared goals.

“The fact that we have partnerships with both countries makes us – of course, leaves us not wanting to see a war of words between India and Pakistan,” Price said and called for a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan.

He reiterated that the US does not view them in relation to the other, adding that each of these relationships also happened to be multifaceted.

“So even as we deepen our global strategic partnership with India, we are also – we also have a relationship in which we can be candid and frank with one another. Where we have disagreements or concerns, we voice those just as we would with our Pakistani friends as well.”

He was of the view that it was for the betterment of the Pakistani people, for the Indian people. “There is much work that we can do together bilaterally. There are differences that, of course, need to be addressed between India and Pakistan. The United States stands ready to assist as a partner to both.”

The State Department spokesperson went on to add that the US administration wanted to constructive relations between Pakistan and India

“It’s always of concern when we see escalation in tensions, when we see escalation in words, in dialogue. We want to see countries – certainly, we want to see our partners work together to achieve common ends.”

When asked about the policy of current administration on Kashmir, he said that the policy was that it was an issue that needed to be addressed by India and Pakistan. “We are prepared to support if the parties want that, but this is a question for India and Pakistan to adjudicate.”

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