U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that his administration will pressure Islamabad to stop harboring Islamic terrorists has reportedly induced Pakistan to postpone a visit by a top U.S. diplomat.
“At the request of the Government of Pakistan, Acting Assistant Secretary [of State Alice] Wells’ trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad told Reuters.
Pakistani foreign ministry echoed the U.S. embassy in its own statement “with similar wording,” notes the news agency.
Although neither the United States nor Pakistan provided a reason for delaying the visit by the top American diplomat, U.S. officials in Pakistan have reportedly been on high-alert since Trump’s speech announcing a new policy on Afghanistan last Monday.
In the southern [Pakistani] metropolis of Karachi, police fired teargas at protesters from a religious student group as they began moving toward the U.S. consulate building.
Between 100 and 150 protesters carrying placards bearing pictures of President Trump and chanting anti-U.S. slogans were kept at bay by police and not allowed within 3 km (2 miles) of the [American] consulate.
Furthermore, the Pakistan-linked terrorist organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), accused by Washington and New Delhi of carrying out attacks in India, staged protests across the country but reportedly failed to attract large numbers.
Islamabad has also protested the recent assertion from the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan that the Afghan Taliban leadership is operating out of Pakistan.
“The Quetta shura, Peshawar shura — these shuras are identified by cities inside Pakistan; we know Afghan Taliban leaders are in these areas. Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced — [it] has to be stopped,” American Gen. John Nicholson recently told TOLO News.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, both the Pakistani ruling party and opposition groups have denied the U.S. allegations that Islamabad is lending support to terrorists in Afghanistan, reports Dawn.
Pakistani officials argue that the Afghan Taliban has no reason to launch attacks out of Pakistani territory given that the terrorist group is already well established inside Afghanistan — controlling or contesting 40 percent of the country, according to to the U.S. government.
Gen. Nicholson claimed that the issue of alleged terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan was being addressed “in private” by Islamabad and Washington.
The Pentagon has long accused Islamabad of harboring jihadists, particularly in Quetta and Peshawar, the capitals of the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), respectively.
Located along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Balochistan and KP are believed to be home to a large concentration of jihadists organizations, namely al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and their ally the Haqqani Network, which is considered the principal threat to U.S. troops.
The provincial governments of Balochistan and KP, which various analysts believe are allowing Islamic terrorist groups to operate within their territory with impunity, also rejected Gen. Nicholson’s assertions, saying that Pakistan has also been afflicted by terrorist activities linked to the Taliban, notes Dawn.
On the other hand, the Pakistani Taliban branch, Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), is primarily focused on overthrowing the Pakistani government.
The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban consider themselves two distinct groups, led by different leaders.
During his speech, Trump blasted Pakistan for harboring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to terrorist groups waging war against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
Meanwhile, it praised Islamabad’s rival India for supporting Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism, to the dismay of Pakistan.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” declared President Trump, adding, that Pakistan “has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
The Trump administration has already decided to withhold about $50 million in military reimbursements for Pakistan over Islamabad’s alleged support for the Taliban and its ally the Haqqani Network.
Officials in Pakistan have denied the accusations levied by the American president, saying the United States should not “scapegoat” Islamabad for America’s failures in Afghanistan.
For years, Pakistanis and Afghans have accused one another of sheltering terrorists operating within their borders.
The Pakistani government accuses Afghanistan of harboring the Pakistani Taliban and, in turn, Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of providing sanctuary to the Afghan branch of the terrorist group.
“The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remains a sanctuary for various groups, including al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e- Tayyiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ISIS-K [Islamic State], and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” reported the Pentagon this year.
“Sanctuary on the Pakistan side and presence on the Afghan side remain a security challenge for both countries and pose a threat to regional security and stability,” it added.