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We have not seen decisive changes yet in Pakistan behavior: USA

07 March, 2018

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WASHINGTON: The US has not seen a ‘decisive and sustained’ change in the behaviour of Pakistan even after the Trump Administration announced to freeze $2 billion security assistance to Islamabad nearly two months ago, a senior American official said on Tuesday.

“We’ve not seen decisive and sustained changes yet in Pakistan’s behavior … but certainly we are continuing to engage with Pakistan over areas where we think they can play a helpful role in changing the calculus of the Taliban,” said Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.

Briefing reporters on the recent conference in Afghanistan, Wells said Pakistan has a very important role to play in the Afghan peace process. “We believe that Pakistan can certainly help facilitate talks and take actions that will put pressure on and encourage the Taliban to move forward towards a politically negotiated settlement,” Wells said.

“Our engagement with Pakistan is on how we can work together, on how we can address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns and Afghanistan’s stability through a negotiated process as well,” she said.

“Pakistani officials have underscored they see a variety of issues whether it’s border management or refugees or terrorism that emanates from ungoverned space in Afghanistan, as important issues, and we would agree that all of these need to be resolved during the course of a reconciliation process,” she said.

Noting that Afghanistan-Pakistan cordial relations are quite important for the region, she said the US is 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,” she said.

“The Trump administration believes that intensified efforts under the South Asia strategy to put military pressure on the Taliban are important because military efforts help shape the conditions for talks and help underscore that there is no military victory for the Taliban and that ultimately their legitimate grievances will have to be addressed at the negotiating table. We’d like to see them come to this table sooner rather than later,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua will kick off her visit to the United States this week to hold talks with senior officials of the Trump administration on a host of bilateral and regional issues.

Alice Wells said that the Pakistani official would be meeting Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the State Department. The top Pakistani diplomat is also scheduled to have some meetings with think tanks and will meet officials of the National Security Council.

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