US wants to continue improving ties, Austin tells Bajwa

Published August 11, 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

WASHINGTON: In a phone call to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has conveyed Washington’s interest in continuing to improve the US-Pakistan relationship, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Secretary Austin “expressed his interest in continuing to improve the US-Pakistan relationship and build upon our multiple shared interests in the region”, the statement added.

“Secretary Austin and General Bajwa discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, regional security and stability, and the bilateral defence relationship more broadly,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

Mr Austin also discussed the mutual goals of security and stability in the region, he said.

Responding to a journalist’s question, Mr Kirby said the US continues to have conversations with the Pakistani leadership about the safe havens that exist along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We are mindful that those safe havens are only providing a source of more insecurity and more instability inside Afghanistan. We are not bashful about having that discussion with Pakistani leaders,” he said.

“We are also mindful that Pakistan and the Pakistani people also fall victim to terrorist activities that emanate from that region. So, we all have a shared sense of the importance of closing down those safe havens and not allowing them to be used by the Taliban or other terrorist networks to sow discord,” Mr Kirby said.

“And again, we’re having that conversation with the Pakistanis all the time,” he said.

Asked what role India and Pakistan should play in Afghanistan, the Pentagon spokesperson said: “We want all neighbouring countries not to take actions that make the situation in Afghanistan more dangerous than it is already, and to continue to try to use international pressure to get a negotiated peaceful political settlement to this war.”

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2021

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