Washington urges Pakistan to ‘exercise restraint’ following Afghanistan airstrikes

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 12, 2024. (AFP/File)
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  • White House official Karine Jean-Pierre urges Taliban to ensure “terrorist attacks” are not launched from Afghan soil 
  • Pakistan conducted airstrikes in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces on Monday against alleged militant targets

ISLAMABAD: The White House this week urged Pakistan to exercise restraint and the Afghan Taliban to rein in militants from launching cross-border attacks, as tensions escalated between Islamabad and Kabul following Pakistan’s airstrikes in neighboring Afghanistan on Monday. 

Pakistan conducted airstrikes in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces early Monday against what it said were militant targets. The move infuriated the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, which said the strikes killed five women and three children, prompting their forces to fire at Pakistani forces along the border.

The incursions occurred at a time when relations between the two neighbors have been soured by an increase in militant attacks in Pakistan that Islamabad has blamed on militant groups operating from Afghanistan. Kabul denies the use of its soil against any country.

In a press briefing to reporters, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Washington deeply regrets the loss of lives and injuries sustained during Saturday’s attack on Pakistani security forces, which saw seven soldiers killed in the country’s northwest. She also regretted the loss of civilian lives during the strikes in Afghanistan. 

“We urge the Taliban to ensure that terrorist attacks are not launched from Afghan soil,” Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday. “We urge Pakistan to exercise restraint and ensure civilians are not harmed in their counterterrorism efforts.”

The White House official urged both sides to resolve their differences through dialogue. 

“We remain committed to ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who wish to harm United States or our other partners or allies,” she said. 

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks, particularly in its western provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan, after the Pakistani Taliban called off a fragile truce with Islamabad in Nov. 2022.

In a separate development, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome extended his condolences over the loss of lives of Pakistani soldiers in Saturday’s attack in the North Waziristan district. The remarks came after his meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

“The Ambassador conveyed his condolences for the loss of Pakistani soldiers in the recent terrorist attack in Waziristan and assured the President the United States stands with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism,” the US embassy said in a statement.

The two figures discussed a broad range of issues, including US support for continued economic reforms, human rights, and regional security, as well as the two countries’ shared interests and goals, it added.