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Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan scheduled trip to Pakistan has been postponed

28 August, 2017

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ISLAMABAD/KABUL: Acting United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Alice Wells' scheduled trip to Pakistan has been postponed, the US Embassy in Pakistan confirmed on Sunday.

According to a private TV channel Wells was set to visit Islamabad on August 28 to discuss "cooperation in the region", said a US State Department media note.

The trip was postponed at the request of the Government of Pakistan, US Embassy spokesman Rick Sinelsine told the TV channel.

The new date of the visit is not confirmed, he said, adding that the trip has been "postponed until a mutually convenient time."

The development surfaced at a time when relations between the two countries are already tense after the US President Donald Trump, delivering a speech on Afghanistan policy, accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists. Islamabad strongly rejected Trump's accusation and is currently busy discussing the new US policy with China, Russia, and Turkey.

A day after Trump accused Pakistan of duplicity, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned Pakistan that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally if it continues giving 'safe haven' to Afghan militant groups.

Tillerson had claimed that Washington has "leverage" over Pakistan, "a non-NATO ally" that has been receiving US aid.

US Ambassador David Hale held separate meetings with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa to brief them on the new policy.

"We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the US, but trust, understanding and [an] acknowledgment of our contributions," the COAS had told Hale.

Separately, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson has claimed that the US is aware of the Afghan Taliban leadership's presence in Quetta and Peshawar.

"The Quetta Shura, Peshawar Shura, these shuras are identified by cities inside Pakistan, we know Afghan Taliban leaders are in these areas," he said in an exclusive interview with Afghan media outlet TOLO news.

According to him, the issue of sanctuaries was a serious one and one that needed to be addressed.

On whether a diplomatic solution could be found, he said this was a possibility but that a significant military effort inside the country would be carried out and that together the US would work with the Afghan government to increase its military capabilities.

"I am primarily focused on activities inside Afghanistan," but other officials are looking into the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, he claimed.

Nicholson made it clear that the US and NATO stand by the Afghan security forces against terrorists and enemies of Afghanistan and said that the Taliban cannot win on the battlefield. "It's time for them to join the peace process," he stressed.

He said the issue of outside sanctuaries has to be addressed but that it was "being addressed in private between the US government and the Pakistani government - but it does need to be addressed." "Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped," said Nicholson.

Specifically asked whether the Taliban leadership in Quetta and Pashawar and other major Pakistan cities "shouldn't sleep in peace from now on", he said "I won't put words in the (US) president's mouth but he definitely conveyed this message." He said that following US President Donald Trump's announcement earlier this week on his new war strategy, he, Nicholson, as a commander, has a new policy - "one based on conditions and not time." He said: "It gives us additional capabilities. We have a direction now provided by the US policy that is being supported by NATO".

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