WASHINGTON - The United States is engaged with Pakistan to address its legitimate concerns and discuss ways of working together, a top US State Department official said on Monday, ahead of an official visit by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to Washington.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs told a news briefing that Pakistani officials have underscored a variety of issues that emanates from ungoverned space in Afghanistan “and we would agree that all of these need to be resolved during the course of a reconciliation process” for Afghan peace.

“They (Pakistan) have concerns over border management; over TTP – the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s presence in ungoverned space in Afghanistan; refugee concerns,” said Ms Wells who returned this weekend after attending the Kabul conference, which was participated by some 25 countries including Pakistan.

Emphasising the important role of Pakistan in the Afghan peace process, Secretary Wells said that Islamabad could certainly help to facilitate talks and to take actions that will put pressure on and encourage the Taliban to move forward towards a politically negotiated settlement.

The US official also stated that the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship was quite important and the US was supportive of the efforts to improve the bilateral relationship. “The two countries have exchanged visits over the last several months to establish a framework agreement, to enhance the bilateral relationship. We support that and think it’s important.”

The remarks by the Deputy Assistant Secretary came as Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua begins her official visit to Washington from Tuesday. Ms Wells said that the Pakistan’s foreign secretary will hold meetings with counterparts and government and was also due to meet Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

“I think we’re in the beginning of a process with the Pakistani Government,” said Ms Wells while responding to a question. “We’re certainly not walking away from Pakistan. There will be very intensive dialogue through both our military and our civilian channels to discuss how we can work together.”

Replying to a question, the assistant secretary said the US was certainly continuing to engage with Pakistan over areas where it think Islamabad could play a helpful role in changing the calculus of the Taliban.

Asked if US sees any legitimate Taliban’s concerns, Ms Wells said that “the legitimate grievances raised by the Taliban over justice, over corruption, over predatory governance of the past – those issues need to be resolved”.

In that context, she said, it was quite significant that President Ghani suggested that there could be constitutional amendments so that the constitution is owned by all the Afghan people.

“What we’ve encouraged the Government of Afghanistan to undertake are the series of reforms that have been enshrined in the Afghanistan compact that look at improvements in governance and economics and reconciliation and military security, because those questions have to be answered,” she added.

To a question, the assistant secretary said that Afghan President Ghani, at the Kabul Conference offered a dignified political negotiation to Taliban and the onus was on Taliban to respond.

She said that Taliban had raised concerns in the past about process and dignity and about not being coerced and the package that President Ghani advanced reflected the Afghan people’s conviction that at the end, there does need to be a political settlement.

“We certainly encourage the Taliban to take this offer seriously. For the first time, Kabul Process issued a unanimous joint statement, a joint statement by consensus. That was not the case that Kabul Process back in June. So this really does, I think, reflect a seriousness of purpose by the international community in supporting this government effort,” she added.

Asked to comment on the upcoming Tashkent Conference convened by the government of Uzbekistan, and being attended by the US, Russia, China, India and Pakistan, Ms Wells said that Washington does see the Tashkent conference as part of an extension of the Kabul Process.

“For us, what is important is that these mechanisms and conferences be Afghan-owned and led; and as you know, the Tashkent conference came out of a meeting between President Ghani and Uzbek President Mirziyoyev in Tashkent,” she said.

To another question regarding the attendance of Taliban in the peace process, Secretary Wells said that there would always be elements and factions, the so-called irreconcilable and those reconcilable, who were prepared to come to the negotiating table.

“And so rather than preordain who is irreconcilable, let the process determine that. But certainly, we would anticipate that there will continue to be elements, not just Taliban elements, that will pose a terrorism threat and will need to be taken care of by the Government of Afghanistan with the support of its partners.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has maligned the Kabul Process, tweeting that the Kabul conference sought the Taliban's "surrender."

Ms Wells told reporters she had been struck by Ghani's proposal. "I heard him offering a dignified process," she said.

"This is not a surrender that's being offered to the Taliban, but a dignified process for reaching a political framework," she added, noting that the Kabul conference was "really a historic benchmark event."

Wells said the Afghan government had "listened carefully" to the Taliban and was responsive to a number of their requests. Ghani's offer was "quite forward-leaning and frankly I think probably caught the Taliban by surprise," Wells said. "This was quite a courageous offer."

Last week, the Taliban said it was prepared to enter direct talks with the US to find a "peaceful solution" to more than 16 years of war. That statement however made no mention of negotiating with the Afghan government - a condition which the US has long stated is vital to any peace process.