Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

Published July 4, 2018
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa talks to Alice G. Wells during their meeting at General Headquarters.—Online
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa talks to Alice G. Wells during their meeting at General Headquarters.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan.

This was agreed during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and discussed measures towards that end. Both also agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

American official Alice Wells meets Gen Bajwa

Amb Wells was on a three-day visit to Pakistan to again seek Pakistani authorities’ help for the Afghan peace process. She met Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

She also met business leaders and ambassadors from other embassies in Islamabad.

During her visit to Kabul, which preceded the Islamabad trip, Amb Wells said Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She had further accused the “Taliban ….who are not residing in Afghanistan” of being obstacle to the peace talks. She was apparently referring to Pakistan-based Taliban against whom the US has long asked for action.

During her meetings, she reminded her interlocutors of Pakistan’s commitment to take action against all terrorist groups that might be found on its territory. “Ambassador Wells discussed Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminating all terrorist groups present within its borders,” the US embassy said in an apparent reference to the Taliban elements claimed to be present in Pakistan.

The embassy said that Amb Wells’ discussion was consistent with the Trump administration’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy. The strategy announced last year signalled that Washington might take coercive steps to push Pakistan to crack down against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The US strategy for the region had aggravated an already tense bilateral relationship with Pakistan. The two sides have since then been unable to put their ties on an even keel despite an extensive engagement. However, lately both sides took steps that led to hopes of improvement in the relationship. The Pakistan Army last month reaffirmed its commitment to seeing the US exit Afghanistan after winning the protracted war. The US, meanwhile, eliminated Afghanistan-based terrorist Mullah Fazlullah, whose capture or elimination was long demanded by Pakistan.

The ceasefire between Afghan warring factions further raised hopes of a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict. But, things are again turning for worse in Afghanistan where the Taliban resumed fighting immediately after Eid and the Afghan government order resumption of counter-terrorism operations last weekend.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018

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