ISLAMABAD: US assistant defence secretary Peter Lavoy has arrived in Islamabad in a fresh attempt to bring to an end a six-month blockade on Nato supplies crossing into Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Lavoy's visit comes days after US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan that the United States was running out of patience over Islamabad's alleged refusal to do more to eliminate safe havens for insurgents.
“The US assistant defence secretary arrived here Friday to meet with a broad spectrum of people,” acting US embassy spokesman Robert Raines told AFP.
“He will be discussing bilateral issues with the officials,” he said without elaborating on the agenda for the two-day visit.
A Pakistani government official told AFP ahead of the trip that “talks will focus on re-opening the Nato supply route, ways to promote border coordination and settle the issue of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF)”.
Pakistan-US relations hit a new low six months ago when US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. Islamabad responded by imposing a blockade on Nato supplies crossing overland into Afghanistan.
Analysts believe there is little chance of a breakthrough during Lavoy's trip.
“He will try and persuade Pakistan to re-open the route but it seems Pakistan wants to play tough at this stage,” analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
“I am not very hopeful that the US and Pakistan will agree to re-open the route in the near future despite the fact that Washington wants a middle way solution to the issue.”
Askari said Panetta's strong remarks, which came after talks with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on Thursday, were designed to put pressure on Pakistan.
Panetta singled out the Haqqani network, a Taliban and al Qaeda-linked faction that is said to have bases in Pakistan's tribal district of North Waziristan and which has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan sits on the frontline of the US-led war on al Qaeda and since July 2007 has been gripped by a local Taliban-led insurgency, concentrated largely in the northwest.