Washington: The US would hold Pakistan to its pledge to target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), President Barack Obama's nominee for defence secretary told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Ashton Carter, in written response to questions on the day of his confirmation hearing at Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that there are strategic interests of the US and Pakistan "diverge" on key issues of the direction of Pakistan's nuclear programme and its tolerance of terrorist organisations like the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e Taiba.
"In addition to threatening US forces in Afghanistan, these groups threaten regional security, endanger the prospects of a political settlement in Afghanistan, and undermine Pakistan's own stability," he said.
"I understand that Pakistan has pledged to target all militant groups operating within its borders, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e Taiba. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department holds Pakistan to this pledge, and works against actors who are exploiting Pakistani territory to destabilise the region," Carter said.
Counterterrorism cooperation remains a critical shared strategic interest, he said, adding that Pakistan still faces a real and potent threat from several militant groups within its borders, such as the Pakistani Taliban, responsible for the recent school attack in Peshawar.
"We also share Pakistan's strategic interest in improved relations between Islamabad and Kabul. I believe that the United States and Pakistan should continue to work to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and to improve regional security," he said.
If confirmed, Carter said he would continue to work on improving US relationship with Pakistan by collaborating where their strategic interests converge and engaging where they diverge.
"Moving forward, I believe it is in the United States' interest to expand counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan in our fight against al-Qaeda and to counter any emerging threats.
"Additionally, I would seek to facilitate cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and encourage communication between Pakistan and India, as these relationships will continue to be vital to stability in the region," he noted.
Referring to the strong action by the Pakistani military against terrorist organisations in the border areas of the country, Carter said the country's army has been able to carry out these operations at a more effective pace and scale in part thanks to US reimbursements for Pakistan's operational expenses.
"Additionally, I understand US security assistance programmes have provided the Pakistan military with many of the tools necessary to conduct successful operations in this region. Continued US support will remain critical to the success of these efforts," he said.
"If confirmed, I will consult within the Department and the US interagency on how best to incentivise Pakistani action that is in the mutual interest of the United States," he said in response to a question.