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U.S. wants Pakistan to act quickly to show support in countering militants

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States wants Pakistan to move quickly to show good faith in supporting efforts to counter militants operating in Afghanistan and in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, the senior U.S. diplomat for South Asia said on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks to staff members at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alex Brandon/Pool

Speaking after accompanying U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on a visit to the region, including Pakistan, Alice Wells said Washington looked forward to seeing practical steps from Pakistan “over the next few weeks and months.”

“The secretary stressed the importance of Pakistan moving quickly to demonstrate good faith and efforts to use its influence to create the conditions that will get the Taliban to the negotiating table,” Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South Asia, told reporters.

Wells said Pakistan’s long-standing relationships with militant organizations was a threat to its own stability and said the Taliban leadership and the allied Haqqani network still retained the ability to plan and recuperate and reside with their families in Pakistan.

She said Washington wanted Pakistan to show the same commitment it had made to defeat militant groups domestically to those threatening Afghanistan or India.

“It’s up to them whether or not they want to work with us,” Wells said. “And if they don’t ... then we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Wells declined to elaborate on what action the United States might take or what specific actions it wanted Pakistan to take.

Relations between uneasy allies United States and Pakistan have frayed in recent years, with Washington repeatedly accusing Islamabad of helping Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network militants who stage attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies doing so.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to get tough with Pakistan unless it changed its behavior, with U.S. officials threatening further reductions in aid and mooting targeted sanctions against Pakistani officials.

On Monday, during a visit to Kabul, Tillerson urged Pakistan to act against safe havens on its soil.

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

Pakistani officials bristle at the idea that the country is not doing enough against militants and say Pakistan has suffered more than 60,000 casualties in the war on terror since the Sept. 11 attacks in United States in 2001.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Brown