Following the visit of American Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan, the US State Department gave a candid assessment of the state’s new ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism, and the point appears to be, “We’ll believe it when we see it.” Following are some key quotes from the briefing:
Question: Do you get the sense that in the wake of this brutal attack that the Pakistani leadership is actually changing its orientation and willing to go after groups like LET and Haqqani and so on, or not?
Senior State Department Official One: Well, keeping in mind [Senior State Department Official]’s kind of cautionary note that the proof is in the pudding, and I mean, it relies on kind of what actual operational steps are taken.
And certainly, and saying publicly and privately that they were not making any sort of distinction between terrorist groups is something that we’ve heard more uniformly, more robustly than we’ve ever heard.
Question: And are you just – do you believe it?
Senior State Department Official One: I hope to believe it. We’ll have to see kind of what develops…
Senior State Department Official Two: The Pakistani delegation told us several times today they won’t differentiate between good and bad Taliban, and there are two important things inherent to that kind of a statement. One is acknowledgment that there had been or was a policy of good Taliban and bad Taliban, which I think is interesting. But secondly, it’s a – that’s a measurable proposition going forward.
They’ve now put themselves – committed themselves to something that we can actually more easily observe and measure, because if there is no differentiation, then all Taliban and all militants should be within the specter of their operations. And that’s something that makes it much easier for us to engage with them. So I think it is a very forward-looking thing, and now it gives us the ability to kind of go back to that, and it simplifies this part of the dialogue. But we are going to have to watch and see how this plays out.
The message is pretty clear. The US is encouraged by what they are hearing from military and civilian leaders, but they will be watching closely to see if policy matches rhetoric.