KABUL  -   US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells has said that in order to ensure security in Afghanistan a negotiated political solution that includes Pakistan needs to be found.

In an interview with Afghanistan’s TOLOnews, Wells said continued pressure on the Taliban and Pakistan was needed. “Ultimately the solution to Afghanistan’s security and stability will lie in a political resolution not only on the military battlefield.

“But until then we are going to pressure the Taliban and we are going to support the really courageous and brave Afghan national security forces,” Wells said.

According to her, US President Donald Trump was clear on Pakistan when he revealed his strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia last year. “We see an opportunity for Pakistan to secure its legitimate interests through support for a negotiated settlement. We see the South Asia strategy as an opportunity for Pakistan.

“The fact that the president made the decision to suspend military assistance to Pakistan reflects a level of disappointment that we haven’t seen more aggressive efforts by Pakistan to disrupt the ability of the Taliban to operate, particularly across the border.”

Wells stated Pakistan needs to be part of a wider solution for Afghanistan and that as dialogue with Pakistan continues on the US’s part, it is important to achieve results around peace that are mutually beneficial for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the recent spate of attacks in Kabul – specifically the deadly bombing late January which killed over 100 people – Wells said this was testimony to some elements within the Taliban who are not prepared to work for peace.

Wells said this vision for peace had the support of the international community, which is scheduled to meet later this month for the Kabul Process. She also said the US understands the courage it takes to continue to stand for peace.

“We need to keep the pressure on the Taliban and recognise that it is the Taliban that has prevented your country, your society from moving forward,” Wells said.

Asked about contradicting reports around Daesh in the country – with some sectors stating the group is not a serious threat, while others have raised concern about increasing numbers – Wells said the US was concerned “about some countries efforts to justify their relationship with the Taliban in order to fight against ISIS (Daesh).”

She said however that it was the Taliban that had allowed this “ecosystem” to develop where “terrorist groups like ISIS-Khorasan (Daesh) could take root”.

Wells said the only way to defeat Daesh in Afghanistan was by defeating the Taliban and ensuring the Afghan security forces have the capacity and strength to sustain this battle.

According to the US embassy in Kabul, Wells, who was on a three-day visit to Kabul this week, met with Afghan officials including President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

ANTI-TERROR CooPeration CONTINUES: US GENERAL

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States continued to work closely in the fight against terrorism, said US Air Force Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, who is the commander of US Air Force Central Command.

He was addressing a Pentagon press briefing through a video-conference this week from the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, from where he commands US Air Forces Central Command.

“So, we continue to work closely with our Pakistan partners,” he said while replying to a question. “And what I will tell you is, first off, our intent is to make sure that Pakistan continues their fight against terrorists and does all that they can to support, not only protecting themselves, but also protecting coalition and Afghan partners that are operating there.”

As the air component commander for US Central Command, the general is responsible for developing contingency plans and conducting air operations in a 20-nation area of responsibility, covering Central and Southwest Asia.

To a question about the close air support mission in Afghanistan, the general said that his command had been able to work closely with the Resolute Support headquarters to understand their requirements and then provide that air support that's necessary to support the Afghan partners on the ground and our delivered air campaign.

The general told a questioner that his air command did use F-22s Raptor aircraft to drop Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) on terrorist targets when the new offense kicked off in November, but added that since then these fighter jets have not been used for strikes inside Afghanistan.

“We look at targets, we're going to match the best weapon for that particular target. And based on the assets that we had at that time in theater, Raptors made the most sense,” the general said, adding it was his responsibility to make sure that appropriate assets are available to support US forces in Afghanistan.