WASHINGTON: The United States has refused to give any “specific reaction” to Islamabad’s decision to start a dialogue with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) adding that the two countries still had “alignment of interest” on Afghanistan.
US media reports noted that on Monday Pakistan and the TTP agreed on a “complete cease-fire” as the two sides negotiated an end to years of militancy in the country.
The US media also noted that Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday on a three-day visit — the first to Pakistan by an Afghan minister since the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Aug 15.
The issue was also raised at an afternoon briefing at the US State Department where a journalist reminded Spokesperson Ned Price that Washington still considered the TTP a terrorist outfit and asked for official US reaction to the dialogue.
“If we have a specific reaction on the Pakistani dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban, we’ll, of course, let you know,” said Mr Price, adding, “We have been in regular contact with the Pakistani leadership regarding the question of Afghanistan, regarding our approach to Afghanistan and the approach that we have seen expressed by the international community.”
The US government, he said, had discussed this issue with Pakistani officials in the past as well.
“We have heard both publicly and privately from our Pakistani counterparts that they too have an interest in seeing to it that the gains, including among Afghanistan’s minorities, including among its women and girls, over the past 20 years not be squandered,” the US official added.
“And so, there is quite a bit of alignment of interest when it comes to Afghanistan, and we’re continuing to have those conversations,” said Mr Price, pointing out that Tom West, the new special representative for Afghanistan, would be in Islamabad soon to “continue some of these discussions in the days ahead.”
The State Department announced earlier this week that Mr West would visit Islamabad later this week to clarify US expectations of the Taliban and of any future government in Afghanistan.
This will be his first visit to Pakistan as the top US diplomat for Afghanistan. Mr West replaced Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who stepped down this week after a tumultuous three-year tenure in which he also negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban.
Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2021