Pakistan must fight groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and U.S. interests, visiting Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday as he offered sympathy for the victims of last month's massacre of children at a Pakistani school. The group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the killing.
The West has long suspected nuclear-armed Pakistan of playing a double game, fighting some armed groups while supporting those its generals have regarded as strategic assets to be used against rivals and neighbors India and Afghanistan.
Visiting Pakistan after going to India during the weekend, Kerry said all such groups should be targeted to bring security to the region.
"Terror groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, to its neighbors and to the United States," Kerry said at a news conference in Islamabad, listing some of the most feared groups.
"And all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory... Make no mistake. The task is a difficult one and it is not done."
The U.S. identified Pakistan as a key partner in its “war on terror” following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has spent billions of dollars on military aid to help the country fight armed groups.
But there is growing consternation in Washington about continuing with the same level of assistance unless Pakistan provides evidence it is using the funds effectively to eliminate such groups holed up in its territory.
Kerry said, however, that Washington would provide an additional $250 million in food, shelter and other assistance to help people displaced by conflict in tribal areas.
Most U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan officially completed their combat mission last month, prompting concern about the stability of the region where insurgents have been increasingly aggressive in past months.
Following the attack on the Peshawar school in which 134 children were killed, Pakistan has promised to stop differentiating between "good" and "bad" armed groups and to step up operations against their hideouts on the Afghan border.
Before leaving Pakistan for Geneva, where he was due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, Kerry had been expected to travel to the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar to visit the victims — but the plan was scrapped.
"Kerry had hoped to make a brief trip to Peshawar to visit survivors of the school massacre recovering in a hospital there but weather concerns forced him to cancel," a senior State Department official said.