Tillerson Makes Unannounced Visit to Iraq, Afghanistan

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, walks on the tarmac as he arrives at Baghdad International Airport. VOA

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a previously unannounced visit Iraq, hours after a similar trip to Afghanistan.

In Baghdad, Tillerson was to meet Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haida al-Abadi.

Earlier, the top American diplomat discussed the new U.S. strategy for South Asia with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other senior officials at Bagram airbase, outside of Kabul.

Tillerson said, “I think the U.S. has made it clear in terms of our support for Afghanistan, support for a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, charting a path to peace, prosperity, and self-reliance. It is imperative at the end that we are denying safe haven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world.”

Ghani said the new U.S. strategy brought a positive change in the region and added, “all stakeholders should carry out their responsibilities sincerely,” according to the statement from the presidential palace.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have long alleged that Afghan Taliban, particularly their deadliest arm the Haqqani network, has safe havens in Pakistan. But Islamabad claims it has cleared out all militant safe havens in previously lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan through a military operation.

 Calls for action
Rex Tillerson in Afghanistan
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is greeted by Gen. John Nicholson, right, commander of Resolute Support, with Special Charge d’Affaires Amb. Hugo Llorens, as he arrives, Oct. 23, 2017, at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. VOA

Tillerson, who travels to Islamabad Tuesday, said, “We have made some very specific requests of Pakistan in order for them to take action to undermine the support that the Taliban receives and the other terrorist organizations receive in Pakistan.”

“Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they’re confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan,” he added.

Pakistan has acknowledged that it has some influence with the Taliban but says it does not control the movement or its leaders.

Held in Pakistan

Last week, American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle, who were kidnapped in Afghanistan five years ago, were rescued, along with their three children born in captivity, from the Haqqani network in Pakistan’s Kurram Agency bordering Afghanistan. The rescue operation was carried out by the Pakistan military on an intelligence tip from the United States.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a Washington based group, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the couple was held in Pakistan for the entire length of their captivity.

This contradicted earlier statements by Pakistan’s military and government that the couple was recently moved across the border from Afghanistan.(VOA)

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