Tillerson: Pakistan 'must adopt a different approach'

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau Hillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook MORE on Tuesday warned that Pakistan needs to do more to crack down on insurgent fighters if it wants to have a strong relationship with the United States.

In doing so, Tillerson echoed President Trump’s tough rhetoric on Pakistan in his address Monday night laying out a new strategy for the war Afghanistan. 

“Pakistan and the U.S. historically had very good relationships, but over the last few years there has been a real erosion in the confidence of between our two governments,” Tillerson told reporters Tuesday afternoon at the State Department.

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“There’s been an erosion in trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given a safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan.” 

Tillerson reiterated that part of the administration's strategy for Afghanistan will be getting the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Trump in a prime-time address Monday night said American troops will remain in Afghanistan but declined to provide specific details on a troop increase. He emphasized that elements of the new strategy — of which he offered few details — would be dictated by the conditions on the ground, rather than arbitrary timetables.

Tillerson on Tuesday defended the president’s decision not to disclose details on the plan.

“We are not going to signal ahead what our plans are. We are not going to signal ahead an increase, a decrease, the timing,” Tillerson said. 

Tillerson indiciated that the Pentagon would disclose an increase in U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan once a decision is made — but not beforehand.

Trump also took a hard line on Pakistan in the speech, signaling that the U.S. would put pressure on the country for providing “safe havens” for Taliban fighters — an element of the strategy that Tillerson also highlighted.

Tillerson stressed that the U.S. is “ready to work” to help Pakistan eradicate insurgent fighters but said the country “must adopt a different approach." He noted that Pakistan could play a role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table over the situation in Afghanistan. 

“We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said. “We want to work with Pakistan in a positive way, but they must change their approach.” 

In response to a reporter’s question, he also would not rule out military strikes against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. 

Echoing Trump, Tillerson also said that India has emerged as a strategic partner in the region. The nation’s top diplomat also said that the U.S. has had discussions with other parties, including China, Russia and other regional players, on potential roles they could play in settling the years-long conflict. 

The United States’ chief focus, he said, is on facilitating a reconciliation and peace negotiation process in Afghanistan. 

“Ultimately, it comes down to two parties — the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives,” Tillerson said.