As John Kerry Visits Pakistan, Hopes Rise for Counterterrorism Cooperation

By LaFranchi, Howard | The Christian Science Monitor, January 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

As John Kerry Visits Pakistan, Hopes Rise for Counterterrorism Cooperation


LaFranchi, Howard, The Christian Science Monitor


Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Pakistan Monday with US hopes for counterterrorism cooperation buoyed in the wake of "Pakistan's 9/11" last month - the slaughter of more than 130 children in a Taliban attack on a Peshawar school.

But even as Pakistan's leadership commits to a fight with extremism that for decades has been marked more by Pakistan's hesitation and even encouragement of certain militant groups, concerns are mounting that a new antiterror campaign will mean a trampling of basic civil rights.

Another worry is that Pakistan's post-attack political unity is already fraying, as the country's principal Islamist political parties reject aspects of the government's new get-tough program.

As Secretary Kerry arrived in Islamabad for talks late Monday and Tuesday, rumors swirled that the chief US diplomat would visit the Peshawar school where Taliban fighters on Dec. 16 killed 150 people, mostly children, in what the militant group said was a revenge attack.

State Department officials would not confirm a Peshawar visit, which was hinted at by Sartaj Aziz, national security adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as he met with Kerry Monday. But US officials were clear about the point of Kerry's unpublicized stop in Pakistan following a weekend visit to India.

"We'll be very clear, as we have on previous occasions, that the Pakistani fight against [militants] has to root out all militant groups," a senior State Department official said in briefing reporters about Kerry's visit. Kerry's "core message," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would be US insistence on a "real and sustained effort to constrain the ability" of all extremist groups operating in Pakistan.

Kerry was accompanied by Gen. Lloyd Austin III, chief of US Central Command, underscoring the security focus of a visit that is also expected to touch on economic issues.

The United States wants the redoubled effort to take on not just the Pakistani Taliban - which claimed responsibility for the Peshawar school attack in retribution for the military's anti- Taliban offensive in the disputed North Waziristan region - but also the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The Haqqani network is active in neighboring Afghanistan and - according to the US - is supported by Pakistan's powerful intelligence services as a means of maintaining influence in Afghanstan, in particular vis-a-vis India. Lashkar-e-Taiba is thought to have organized the deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in 2008 and is dedicated to battling Indian rule in Kashmir.

Kerry's arrival in Pakistan Monday coincided with the reopening of the Army Public School in Peshawar that was devastated by the mid- December attack. …

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