July 2, 2018
ISLAMABAD — A U.S. diplomat has begun crucial meetings with officials in Pakistan to seek their cooperation in pushing Taliban insurgents to engage in peace and reconciliation talks with the Afghan government.
Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, Monday met with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Officials have promised to issue details at the conclusion of her visit.
On Tuesday, Wells is scheduled to meet with military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, official sources confirmed.
Ambassador Wells arrived in Islamabad a day after holding wide-ranging talks with leaders in Afghanistan, where she noted pressure was building on the Taliban to respond to President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks in the wake of growing public calls for ending years of hostilities.
A temporary, unprecedented mutual cease-fire between the warring sides during last month’s Muslim festival of Eid has raised hopes for making long-sought Afghan peace talks possible.
“Right now it’s the Taliban leaders, and frankly it’s Taliban leaders who aren’t residing in Afghanistan, who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” she told reporters in Kabul.
Wells did not name any country, but U.S. and Afghan officials have long alleged the Taliban leadership is using Pakistani soil for orchestrating cross-border attacks. She again stressed the need for Islamabad to take “sustained and decisive action” to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Pakistan denies it is providing any support to the insurgents or harboring “safe havens” on its territory and cites tens of thousands of civilian as well as security casualties the country has suffered in the process. Military officials maintain sustained counterterrorism operations have eliminated all terrorism-related infrastructure in the country.
But despite those assurances, Islamabad’s mistrusted relations with Washington have deteriorated particularly over the past year, halting high-level contacts between the two uneasy allies in the “war against terrorism.”
The U.S. administration, however, resumed the diplomatic engagements with Pakistan last month. Wells acknowledged in her statement that without Pakistani cooperation, “it is going to be very hard for us to achieve our objectives” in Afghanistan.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, in a statement ahead of Wells’ arrival, noted Islamabad would be happy to expand bilateral relations with the U.S. “on the basis of mutual interests,” citing historical longstanding partnership in trade and the war against terrorism.
- Pakistan Needs To do More on Taliban: Wells
- U.S. diplomat reaffirms support for Afghan peace during Kabul visit