WASHINGTON: US- Pakistan talks for finding a common ground in Afghanistan have moved away from exchanging allegations into a phase of quiet diplomacy aimed at resolving differences, claim Pakistani and US officials.

The officials confirmed that the two countries had held a series of meetings before and after US Defence Secretary James Mattis’s Dec 4 visit to Islamabad, reflecting the mutual desire to improve ties. Talking to the Pakistani media in Washing­ton, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said that Secretary Mattis’s visit had a positive impact on efforts to rebuild the relationship.

And Pentagon’s chief spokesperson Dana White said at a news briefing last week that Mr Mattis visited Islamabad to find a common ground with Pakistan.

“It’s in the interests of Pakistan, the US and the region to ensure that we can encourage that Afghanistan has a political reconciliation. So we’ll look for ways to work with Pakistanis to find that common ground and move forward,” she said.

Reports in the US media also noted that during the visit the United States did not repeat its allegation that Pakistan was providing safe havens to the Haqqani network for carrying out attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistanis also did not say that the United States was trying to hide its failures in Afghanistan by blaming Pakistan, the media added.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that this change is quite noticeable, when compared with the rhetoric that followed President Donald Trump’s Aug 21 announcement of his new strategy for Afghanis­tan. A military defeat that forces the Taliban to cooperate with Kabul is the key component of this strategy.

While Pakistan supports reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban, it warns that there’s no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

Soon after President Trump’s speech, the US media reported that his administration was considering proposals to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, to expand drone attacks into Pakistan’s settled areas and to expunge Pakistan from its list of major non-NATO allies.

Secretary Mattis, however, did not repeat any of these threats before, during or after his visit to Islamabad. In fact, he refused to do so even when prodded by the media.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2017