Raids by Pakistan-based militants 'a US concern'

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (left) met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as part of an Asia tour that included an earlier stop in China.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (left) met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as part of an Asia tour that included an earlier stop in China.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rice visits amid unease over whether efforts to combat terrorism will affect fate of $423m aid

ISLAMABAD • United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday to press concerns over attacks launched by militants based in Pakistan, officials said.

Her visit to Islamabad, part of an Asia tour that included an earlier stop in China, comes amid uncertainty over whether the US will release US$300 million (S$423 million) in military aid to Pakistan.

Media reports have suggested the money could be held back if the US determines Pakistan is not doing enough to combat the Haqqani network, which has launched some of the deadliest attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Dr Rice "will address areas of mutual interest and of concern, including terrorist and militant attacks emanating from Pakistani soil", a senior US official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The official said Dr Rice's visit was not in response to recent escalating tension between Pakistan and arch-rival India, which cancelled planned peace talks earlier this month. Nine people were killed during an exchange of fire on Friday along a border disputed by India and Pakistan.

The US has urged Pakistan and India to get reconciliation talks back on track.

During the meeting with Mr Sharif, Dr Rice "underscored the importance of strong Pakistan-US relations" and noted the positive direction of ongoing cooperation between the two countries, especially in the areas of defence, economy and energy sectors, a statement from Mr Sharif's office said.

"Dr Rice expressed deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the efforts to root out terrorism and extremism and the success achieved so far," said the statement. Pakistan's military has been waging a fierce offensive against the Pakistani Taleban and its radical Islamic allies in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border, since last year.

However, some have questioned whether the leadership of the Haqqani network, which is allied with but separate from the Taleban, had been allowed to leave to avoid the brunt of the assault.

The US is also keen to get Pakistan's help in resurrecting peace talks between the Afghan Taleban and the government in Kabul. The tentative process towards negotiating an end to almost 14 years of war in Afghanistan was thrown into disarray last month with the revelation that long-time Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had been dead for two years.

Mr Sharif also told Dr Rice that he was looking forward to his visit to the US in October as an opportunity to further strengthen ties between the two countries.

US President Barack Obama has invited Mr Sharif for the official visit, according to Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, which said the dates are being finalised.

Apart from meeting Mr Sharif, Dr Rice was also expected to meet General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan's army chief of staff.

She was accompanied during her visit by the senior director for South Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, Dr Peter Lavoy, and the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr Richard Olson.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Raids by Pakistan-based militants 'a US concern''. Print Edition | Subscribe