United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said he does not enjoy dealing with Pakistan as America’s relationship with the South Asian country has “drifted over the years”, noting that the two countries need to restore the ties to “one of common interest”.
“Dealing with Pakistan -- I don’t enjoy that,” Tillerson said in response to a specific query during a town hall with the State Department employees.
His remark, without any further explanation, was in response to a question posed by a State Department employee who asked: “Is it fair to ask and say do you enjoy your job as Secretary of State?”
“Pakistan is still an important and valued partner of the United States. Over the last decade, the relationship has drifted, and we’ve got to bring this relationship back to one of common interest,” Tillerson said.
Today that’s just not the case, he told his State Department colleagues.
“So we’re engaged in very frank discussions with Pakistan over the concerns we have about their own stability and their future, and the threat they’re under by allowing terrorist organisations to operate in their territory,” Tillerson said.
The top US diplomat said the two countries should find ways as to how they could work together to bring stability and peace to the whole region.
“We’ve got a great team working in that region as well. A lot of work left to do,” Tillerson said.
Earlier in his remarks, Tillerson referred to the new South Asia Policy as one of the key foreign policy highlights in the first year of the Trump administration.
Tillerson said that US President Donald Trump took a very bold decision by asserting that the US will be in Afghanistan with its military presence and continue to fight terrorism and the Taliban on a conditions-based effort.
He, however, refused to give any time limit for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“We’re there until this thing is brought to a conclusion. It’s not a blank cheque. It’s not forever. But we’re going to stay on the ground and support the Afghan government,” he said.
“The Afghan government has to continue to deliver on the needed reforms and create the conditions to have an inclusive government that allows for participation of all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.
“When the Taliban are ready to come to that negotiating table, there will be a place for them to participate in a future Afghan government,” Tillerson said.
According to him, Trump’s South Asia policy aims to deny any safe haven to terrorist organisations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
“Our policy is to deny them the ability to have a safe haven where they can organise, recruit fighters, raise money; plan and carry out attacks against our allies, our own homeland, as they did in the past. So the entire policy in South Asia is to achieve that,” Tillerson said.
The top American diplomat asserted that the policy could be achieved by “eliminating the safe havens”; bringing on board the groups fighting with each other, to get them involved in dialogues and creating the conditions for a reconciliation process within Afghanistan for peace.
Image: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif at the State Department in Washington, DC in October. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters