ISLAMABAD: US National Security Adviser Lt Gen H.R. McMaster is expected to visit Pakistan around the weekend as part of his upcoming tour of the region for assessing the situation in Afghanistan.
Gen McMaster would be the first high-level Trump administration official to visit Islamabad. He would also travel to India and Afghanistan.
The Islamabad leg of his trip has not been officially announced.
The US is considering a request by its top commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson for ‘a few thousand additional troops’ to help break the stalemate in Afghan conflict as the new administration finalises its plan for Afghanistan.
The US is, moreover, concerned about Russia’s growing role in Afghanistan. The American NSA’s visit almost coincides with the 12-nation meeting on Afghanistan being hosted by Moscow on April 14.
The US declined an invitation for the meeting, aimed at formulating a regional approach for peace and stability in Afghanistan, questioning Russian motives.
A series of meetings have begun in Islamabad to finalise Pakistan’s message during Gen McMaster’s visit.
A senior diplomatic source, who disclosed the NSA’s visit, said Gen McMaster’s trip was discussed during Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday.
Gen Bajwa had a day earlier met US ambassador David Hale during which the two were said to have discussed matters pertaining to regional security and mutual interest.
It should be recalled that PM Sharif had on Tuesday in an interview with the state-run newswire APP urged the Trump administration to play its role for the resolution of Kashmir dispute, which is at the core of tense rivalry between Pakistan and India.
Islamabad has increased cooperation with Russia on Afghanistan, but has been maintaining a fine balance with US at the same time. Pakistan is attending the Moscow meeting on Afghanistan, but has been stressing that US participation was must for the process to succeed.
The United States had under the Obama administration been very critical of Pakistan, but recent statements by US military leaders and Pentagon have been positive. Although, US defence secretary is yet to certify that Pakistan has done enough to uproot the Haqqani network from its soil, the tone of public statements has changed significantly.
“We continue to be encouraged by Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistan’s efforts have reduced the ability of some militant groups to use North Waziristan and Fata as a safe haven for terrorism,” said Adam Stump, a US Defence Department spokesman.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2017