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US not supporting Baloch ‘insurgency’

WASHINGTON: The US government has said it firmly supports the territorial integrity of Pakistan and does not support Baloch insurgency or any group that threatens the country.
“We firmly support Pakistan’s territorial integrity,” Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at State Department, told a talk titled ‘Signs of Hope for Afghan Peace Talks’ at the US Institute of Peace in Washington. She said that the message of the Trump administration is that any group or any terrorist group threatening any country in the region has to be opposed.
While the senior US official highlighted New Delhi’s efforts to stablise Afghanistan through investment in development projects, she stressed that it did not mean that America would support or let India manipulate the Afghanistan issue to be used against Pakistan. “We do not support Baloch insurgents or the use or the threat of irredentism against Pakistan.”
Wells went on to say that the US will oppose terrorist threats against all countries in the region. “We oppose groups that are targeting Pakistan,” she remarked.
The US, Wells said, has not yet seen ‘decisive or sustained changes’ in Pakistan’s behaviour. “But we are not walking away from Pakistan. This relationship is important to us and we’re continuing our intensive dialogue through both our military and civilian channels to discuss how we can work together better,” she said.
Pakistan has an important role to play in a peace process and in stabilising Afghanistan, she said. “We believe that Pakistan can help change and shape the calculus of the Taliban. We are engaged with Pakistan on how we can work together as well as address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns through a negotiated process,” she said.
“Pakistani officials have expressed concerns ranging from border management to refugees to terrorism that emanates from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, and these are issues that need to be addressed during the course of a reconciliation process,” Wells said.
She claimed that senior officials of the US and Pakistan are engaged in an ‘intensive dialogue’. “We have calibrated our relationship with Pakistan in a very different way than other administrations. We’ve gone much further and underscored the importance and the centrality of this issue to our ability to expand relations with Pakistan,” she said. “You see an intensive dialogue by General Votel with his counterpart [Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa],” she said.
The senior State Department official also referred to the recent US announcement of rewards for three leaders of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “We oppose groups that are targeting Pakistan. Of course, we oppose groups that are targeting Afghanistan,” she said while responding to a question. Responding to a question on the Taliban planning their Spring Offensive from Pakistani territory, Wells said the US would like steps taken that make it harder for the Afghan Taliban to plan for Spring Offensive to disrupt their ability to meet and to lay out this operational plan for the next year.
The US envoy also deliberated over China’s role in stabilising Afghanistan. “We have overlapping interests in Afghanistan,” she said. “We both want to see a stable Afghanistan that does not tolerate and is able to prevent presence of terrorists.”
Speaking on the Islamic State threat in Afghanistan, Wells revealed the US was ‘disturbed by some countries justification of the Taliban as a fighting force against the Islamic State – Khorasan’. “I think we see a tendency to exaggerate the IS-Khorasan threat as a pretext to almost justify a hedging behaviour.”
She said the only way to defeat IS was to defeat Afghan Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government. However when a member of the audience pointed out that the dialogue process would be futile if the US wanted to defeat the Afghan Taliban, she rephrased her statement, saying the military pressure on the Afghan Taliban should not be lessened due to IS.

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