Location: Serena Hotel
Date: November 6, 2017
Thanks to Raoof Hassan and his team at the Regional Peace Institute and thanks to Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for his presence. I have no doubt this eminent and experienced group will build on the successes of the previous dialogue sessions, and I look forward to hearing the results.
It might be useful for me to take a few minutes to summarize the main features of the Administration’s South Asia policy. First, it is a South Asia strategy. It is regional. It recognizes that sustainable solutions to the region’s conflicts require a collective effort and must be comprehensive.
For example, to be economically healthy and politically secure, Afghanistan must be anchored in a region that respects territorial integrity and sovereignty, ensures security by denying terrorist safe havens, promotes government stability, and works toward mutual economic prosperity.
Second, a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan remains the ultimate objective, and the only way to achieve our goals. We will maintain pressure on the Taliban until they negotiate a settlement with the Afghan government that ends the violence, compels the Taliban to break ties with terrorists, and ensures respect for the constitution, including its protections for women and minorities.
We are working with interested states to help the Afghans develop a path toward peace and reconciliation.
Third, we look to the Afghan government to play a critical role in setting conditions for a peace process and demonstrating it is a willing and stable partner for negotiations. Secretary Tillerson, during his visit to Afghanistan, reiterated President Trump’s message that our support was not a blank check. He reinforced the need for Afghanistan to show real progress on the reform goals that President Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah endorsed in the Kabul Compact. These include steps to ensure the integrity of the electoral process, which will be critical in 2018 and 2019.
We view India as a leading global power and a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region. In that context, the strategy establishes the goal of reducing tension between India and Pakistan, supporting their direct efforts to foster stability and improved relations in a sustained and comprehensive way. In October, the Secretary encouraged India to do more to support Afghanistan economically, and encouraged both India and Pakistan to resume dialogue and reduce tensions. The world looks to both countries to safeguard against a nuclear conflict in South Asia.
Our South Asia strategy also looks to Pakistan for decisive action against all terrorist groups operating from its soil. Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism and –- at the cost of too many soldiers’ and civilians’ lives –- has fought back against terrorists who were intent on undermining Pakistan. Pakistan has been on the front lines in the effort to defeat Al Qaida and ISIS in South Asia.
We ask for equal diligence in decimating all the groups operating in Pakistan which threaten the region’s stability, including the Haqqani Network. We seek a sustained and irreversible effort to achieve an aspiration and commitment made public by Pakistani officials: an end to the use of Pakistan’s soil for attacks on its neighbors.
How could –- and why should — we expect anything less from this proudly sovereign state, than the exercise of full sovereign control over its territory?
With the U.S. committed to denying the Taliban a military victory, Pakistan has much to gain from ensuring that its own legitimate security interests are advanced in a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Pakistani leaders have made clear that they share our goal for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. It is now time to join in our effort and create a context in which terrorist groups can no longer launch cross-border attacks and see no alternative to negotiations.
The Secretary conveyed to both the civilian and military leadership that American-Pakistani relations were at a critical juncture. If Pakistan’s leaders choose not to take advantage of this opportunity for cooperation, we will act accordingly. Together, we have much to gain through cooperation.