US calls for strong action by Pakistan against Taliban

The United States has said that it very concerned about developments in Pakistan and called on the government in Islamabad and the military to take strong and decisive action to deal with the extremists who threaten the country and the region.

Acting State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said that President Barack Obama had had a meeting on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke on the developments.

"We are in close touch with the Government of Pakistan. We’re going to work with the Government of Pakistan to halt the advances of the Taliban. And, you know, as I said, we’re trying to get more details about what actually is going on there," Mr Wood said at his daily briefing on Friday.

The spokesman said the situation on the ground in Pakistan was very difficult. "We have – we, the international community, have to help Pakistan meet these threats," he said.

At the same time, he stressed that it was important that Pakistan took the measures necessary to deal with the threat it faced.

"And as I said yesterday, they need to take very decisive action to deal with these elements. These elements are a threat to not only Pakistan’s internal security, but to its neighbours. And I’m focusing specifically on Afghanistan.

"And so, you know, we’re going to continue to push and we’re going to continue to work with the government. But I think that the government realizes the threat that it’s under, the challenges that it faces, and, as I said, needs to take very strong, decisive action right now to deal with that threat," he said.

Mr Wood said the Pakistani government recognised the threat it faced. "What we now need to see are steps from the government and the military to deal with that threat, and we’ll just have to see as the days go by," he said.

Asked if such actions meant military action against the Taliban, he said, "What I’m saying is the government and the military need to take the steps necessary to deal with that threat. You know, Pakistan’s a sovereign government. It’s dealing with, as I said, a very strong, internal threat. It needs to take the measures that it feels is necessary to deal with that threat."

In reply to a question whether there might be another peace agreement by the Pakistani government with the Taliban, Mr Wood said violent extremists needed to be confronted.

"And that’s not just in Pakistan, but that’s in other places around the world. So that will be a decision on the part of the Pakistani Government to make. But we are strongly encouraging Pakistan to take these – to take steps necessary to deal with the threat. So – yes."

Asked if the US had any confidence in the Pakistan government's ability and willingness to take those steps, he said, "Look, the government realizes what it’s up against. And we’ve had very good conversations with the Government of Pakistan over the last several weeks. But obviously, in recent days, there has been an increased threat. We’ve seen what the Taliban has been doing. The government needs to take action. And we’ll have to see in the coming days what the government actually does to deal with the problem."

When asked if that reply meant there was no confidence, he said, "It’s not a question of our confidence or anybody else’s confidence. It’s a question of the Pakistani Government dealing with the threat that it faces, a very strong internal threat. And this threat, as the Secretary said, is also one that impacts our security interests. So what’s important is what the government does, not about whether one country or another has trust or not. That’s really not the issue here."

Mr Wood said, in reply to another question, that the US would do everything it could to help Pakistan stem the advances of the Taliban. "But those advances are very concerning to all of us."

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