U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in a phone call to take “decisive action” against “terrorists” operating in Pakistan, the State Department said on Thursday.
Pompeo wished Khan success in the wake of his being sworn in as prime minister in Islamabad on Saturday following victory in July 25’s elections, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“Secretary Pompeo expressed his willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral relationship,” Nauert said in a statement. He also “raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal denied in a tweet that the issue of terrorism had been discussed at all. “Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by U.S. State Dept on today’s phone call btwn PM Khan & Sec Pompeo,” he wrote. “There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan.”
But Nauert later stuck by her original statement.
Washington has pressured Pakistan for years to crack down on the branches of the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani Network operating in the country, both of which have been designated as terror groups by the United States.
Ties with the U.S. cooled in January when President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of “lies” and “duplicity” in the war on terror, suspending military assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Khan has raised concerns that he will remain tolerant of the groups, willing to hold talks with the militants and having sought support in the election from religious hardliners. Before the election he repeatedly blamed Pakistan’s participation in the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign for the surge in terrorism on home soil over the last decade.