US offers 'assistance' to Pakistan with terror threat, Bannu situation

Spokesperson denounces 'war of words' between India, Pakistan, reaffirms 'partnership' with both

Newsdesk December 20, 2022

The United States (US) has offered its "assistance" to Pakistan in fighting terrorism, particularly in the still unfolding hostage situation in Bannu, saying that defeating terrorism was a "shared goal" of both countries.

The situation at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police station in the Bannu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remained tense on Tuesday as talks to resolve the stand-off with militants who were holding several security personnel hostage yielded no results.

Read US to 'take action' if terrorists regroup in Afghanistan

Security forces have surrounded the highly fortified cantonment area that houses the interrogation centre in the town, where around 20 fighters from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are holed up after seizing control of the facility.

Furthermore, police and security agencies cordoned off the area and asked residents to stay indoors.

In a press briefing, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, while responding to a question regarding the situation, stated that "we have been closely following reports that militants have seized control of the counterterrorism center in Bannu" and offered "deepest sympathies to those injured".

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"We urge those responsible for the attack to cease all acts of violence, to safely release those who remain hostage, and to end the seizure of the counterterrorism center," he continued.

"The Government of Pakistan is a partner when it comes to these shared challenges, including the challenge of terrorist groups – terrorist groups inside of Afghanistan, terrorist groups along the Afghan-Pakistan border," he added.

"We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation or more broadly," the spokesperson said.

It is pertinent to mention here that a highly critical report, prepared by security agencies, painted a bleak picture of the anti-terrorism mechanism in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, saying on Monday that the province’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) lacked capacity to fight terrorism.

The report, presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting, warned that because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the CTD would not be able to prevent or stop a terrorist attack in the province.

The K-P CTD did not have the capacity to fight terrorism as it itself had become the epicentre of problems, owing to lack of resources and manpower at a time when insurgency and terrorism were once again rearing their ugly heads in the province, the report revealed.

'War of words' between US partners

Responding to another question about the recent heated exchange between India and Pakistan, Price said that the US maintained its partnerships with both countries and stressed that "these relationships stand on their own; it is not zero-sum".

"We see the importance – the indispensability really – of maintaining valuable partnerships with both our Indian and our Pakistani friends," he added.

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The spokesperson also stated that these relationships remained "multifaceted" such that while the US pursues a deepening of its "global strategic partnership" with India it also remains in a position to be "candid and frank".

"Where we have disagreements or concerns, we voice those just as we would with our Pakistani friends as well," he said.

It may be noted that earlier this month, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's blistering response to India’s renewed terror mantra against Pakistan had gone viral. Bilawal had called Modi “Butcher of Gujarat”, a nickname he had earned for overseeing a pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the state chief minister.

After India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar had accused Pakistan of being the “epicenter of terrorism” for “harbouring Osama bin Laden”, Bilawal, in his UNSC address, said, “Osama Bin Laden is dead but the Butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the prime minister of India. He was banned from entering this country until he became prime minister. This is the prime minister of the RSS and the foreign minister of the RSS. What is the RSS? The RSS draws its inspiration from Hitler’s SS."

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Later, Pakistan rejected the statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Bilawa’s remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling it a “reflection of India’s growing frustration”.

Responding to the media, Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that with its statement the Indian government had tried to hide behind subterfuge and canard to conceal the realities of the 2002 Gujarat massacre.

The rejection came as the Indian government strongly criticised Bilawal’s remarks. According to the Indian media, the External Affairs Ministry said that Pakistan “lacked the credentials to cast aspersions at India”.


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