US asks Pakistan to squeeze Taliban

ISLAMABAD   –  The United States Monday asked Pakistan to make the life of Taliban difficult for pushing them to talks table and improve prospects of peace in Afghanistan.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, who arrived here earlier in the day, met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to discuss the regional situation and efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Wells had a ‘polite message’ but she definitely repeated the age-old mantra of the US – asking Pakistan to ‘do more.’

One official said: “Wells made it clear that for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan had to play a more proactive role. She said the US does acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices but the job was still not done.”

Another official said Tehmina Janjua presented Pakistan’s point of view and highlighted the nation’s losses in the war on terror. “She asked the US envoy to understand Pakistan’s position instead of making more demands when one job is done,” he added.

Alice Wells, who was in Afghanistan before the visit to Pakistan, had said before flying to Islamabad that Pakistan needed to do more on Taliban and take decisive action. She pressed Pakistan to squeeze the Taliban.

Wells underscored continued US support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and the need for an honourable and dignified path to ending the conflict. 

Last month, Pakistan had told the US that it had done enough against terror and being ‘on notice’ was unfair. This was also a reaction to Well’s statement that Pakistan was still ‘on notice.’

In an official testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ambassador Wells had said the US expected unequivocal cooperation in ending the sanctuaries of Taliban in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is on notice that we expect its unequivocal cooperation ending sanctuaries that the Taliban have enjoyed since the remnants of their toppled regime fled into Pakistan in 2001,” she said but added that Pakistan can play an important role in the Afghan peace process.

Her statement had come after Pak-US relation showed signs of improvement. Last month, Pakistan and the US had agreed to jointly achieve common targets of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

On June 7, US Vice president Mike Pence telephoned Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk to discuss the bilateral ties and the regional situation. On the same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telephoned Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa and sought Pakistan’s cooperation in political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

There was no official word from the military about the telephonic conversation but officials said that Pompeo and Bajwa discussed the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The US stepped up efforts seeking political reconciliation in Afghanistan after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban ahead of Eidul Fitr celebrated on June 16.

In May, the two countries had imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats suggesting a new low in their troubled ties.

Pakistan hosted the first direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in 2015 but they ended when Kabul announced the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. Pakistan responded sharply saying it was not dependent on US aid for the war on terror.

The foreign ministry said Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Islamabad and Washington were working to mend fences as confidence level was improving.

He said Pakistan and the US were in contact to defuse the tension. “The confidence level is on an upward trajectory. The two countries are in contact to promote the bilateral ties,” he added. 

Before the Janjua-Wells talks, Pakistan strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Afghanistan’s city Jalalabad, killing and injuring many civilians. Dr Faisal said: “We are distressed and grieved at the loss of precious human lives.”

He said Pakistan expresses our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives and pray for early recovery of the injured.

Separately, a ceremony to mark the opening of a new consular facility, offices and residences was held at the US embassy in Islamabad yesterday.

US Ambassador David Hale, Alice Wells and Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Project Director Tracy Thomas participated in the event.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Hale said the new embassy provided a modern and environmentally sustainable platform for diplomacy between the two nations. He said it represented an enduring American commitment to the Pakistani people.

Since work began in 2011, over 10,000 people have contributed 30 million work hours to complete the project, which added 24 billion rupees to the local economy through employment opportunities and the use of local products, said a US embassy statement.



US asks Pakistan to squeeze Taliban



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