US defence secretary discusses Afghan issue with Bajwa

Published April 29, 2021
This combo photo shows US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. — Photo courtesy: PBS News Hour/AFP
This combo photo shows US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. — Photo courtesy: PBS News Hour/AFP

ISLAMABAD: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa said on Wednesday the United States and Pakistan would like to continue their cooperation for regional stability and security.

This was stated by the Pentagon in a statement after Secretary Austin called Gen Bajwa to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

During the call, Secretary Austin reaffirmed the importance of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship and expressed appreciation for Islamabad’s support for Afghanistan peace negotiations, a readout of the conversation issued by the Pentagon said.

Secretary Austin and Gen Bajwa discussed the importance of regional stability and the desire of the United States and Pakistan to continue working together on shared goals and objectives in the region, it added.

The conversation took place as the US started moving out equipment from Afghanistan ahead of the planned troop pullout. Plans have also been put in place for security of the withdrawing troops and in this regard more long-range bombers have been deployed to the region and USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier’s mission in the Centcom region has been extended.

The movement of US troops out of Afghanistan is expected to begin weeks later.

President Joe Biden had on April 15 announced his decision to end America’s longest overseas military engagement and complete withdrawal of troops by Sept 11, which would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The Pentagon said the defence secretary and the army chief discussed the drawdown in Afghanistan.

Pakistan had cautiously welcomed Biden’s announcement and said that the pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan must go hand in hand with progress in the peace process.

Islamabad has launched an effort to push the peace process that has remained deadlocked for months.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, who earlier in the week visited Kabul, is flying to Doha on Thursday for a meeting with the Taliban.

An official said Mr Sadiq, in his meeting with the Taliban, would emphasise the need for taking the peace process forward and reducing violence. He will also urge the insurgent group to participate in the Istanbul Conference.

The conference, which was earlier scheduled for April 24, had to be postponed after the Taliban refused to take part in it.

Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations, which are hosting the conference, plan to hold it after Eidul Fitr.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2021

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