WASHINGTON - The United States Wednesday welcomed General Raheel Sharif's recent statement about not allowing anyone to use its soil against Afghanistan, but declined to comment on a proposal by US Republican Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, for an extension in his tenure as Pakistani Army chief.

“I don’t,” US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said when questioned by a Pakistani television channel reporter if he would want to comment on Senator McCain’s statement that he wanted to see General Raheel to continue as the COAS so that the military operations can continue with the same vigour in the Tribal Areas and other parts of the country.

"I would simply state that it is in the US’s long-term national interests to support Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism, violent extremism, and build a more stable and democratic society. I’ll leave it there," Toner said. "We are continuing to address some of our concerns about where Pakistan needs to move next in terms of combating terrorist threats," he said.

"It is in the US's long-term national interests to support Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism, violent extremism, and build a more stable and democratic society," he said as he appreciated the recent efforts of Pakistan Army to go after terrorist groups. "We believe that Pakistan is taking steps to address terrorist violence, particularly focused on groups that threaten Pakistan's stability. They have made progress shutting down terrorist safe havens," he said.

"They've restored government control in many parts of Pakistan that have been used as terrorist safe havens for many years. These are important, and they're meaningful steps for Pakistan to have made. They have also come at a cost, and that cost is certainly in Pakistani lives," Toner said.

"At the same time – and we’ve made this point before – we’ve been very clear that Pakistan must target all militant groups, including those that target Pakistan’s neighbours, and close all safe havens. And so in this regard we certainly welcome comments by General Raheel Sharif’s  on July 6, when he directed Pakistani military commanders, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement agencies to take concrete measures to deny any militant groups safe haven or the use of Pakistani soil to launch terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.”

Earlier this month, Senator McCain visited Pakistan and said he was deeply impressed by General Raheel’s leadership skills. He termed the situation in Waziristan agency satisfying and lauded the Armed Forces for clearing tribal areas off terrorists.

Asked to comment on the Congress Committee’s demands to stop assistance to Pakistan due to its failure to eliminate terrorist networks, Toner admitted that since the Army Public school (APS) attack in Peshawar, Pakistan has been taking steps to address terrorist violence.

“Pakistan suffered greatly, as I just mentioned, with the attack in Peshawar – suffered greatly from terrorism. We believe that Pakistan is taking steps to address terrorist violence, particularly focused on groups that threaten Pakistanis’ – Pakistan’s stability.” Referring to the ongoing tensions in Kashmir and its impact on Pakistan and India, Toner said that the US wants to see dialogue between India and Pakistan, regarding how to resolve conflict in the disputed territory.

QUESTION:  The United States supported the UN resolution about the Kashmir – the self-determination rights of the Kashmiri people. Do you still support that UN resolution?

TONER: Look, our policy and position on Kashmir hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Sir, what is the policy on the Kashmir?

TONER: I’ve said it before. We want to see dialogue between India and Pakistan and the Kashmir on the – on how to resolve the conflict in Kashmir and our policy hasn’t changed.

PAK AMBASSADOR MEETS MCCAIN

Pakistan's Ambassador to US Jalil Abbas Jilani, met Senator McCain, who recently led a Congressional delegation to Pakistan and the region. Other members accompanying Chairman McCain included Senators Lindsey Graham, Joe Donnelly and Ben Sasse. Ambassador Jilani briefed the Senator about recent developments in the region and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards peace and stability, a press release issued by the Pakistani Embassy said.

Sharing the experiences of his visit to Pakistan, during which the delegation had also visited North Waziristan, Senator McCain expressed satisfaction to see progress in the region after the military operations by the Pakistan Army. He noted the development of infrastructure and rehabilitation for people of FATA being undertaken in an impressive manner.

Lauding the sacrifices of the Pakistani soldiers killed in the line of duty, Senator McCain assured Ambassador Jilani of continued US support to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts for stability of the region. Senator underscored the need of good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan which were in the interest of the whole region.