Afghanistan: US, Pakistan on Same Page
WASHINGTON – Ahead of the important US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue next week, the Obama administration on Friday said both Washington and Islamabad are on the same page on Afghanistan and promised it would continue to work toward pushing constructive ties between the South Asian neighbours. Afghanistan, cross-border terrorism, withdrawal of troops from by the end of the year and peace talks with the Taliban would figure prominently during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to be held in Washington on Monday.
“We’re going to have an interest in promoting constructive relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and in working with Pakistan, among other countries, to stabilize Afghanistan,” a senior State Department official said. “I think one of the points of discussion will be how are things going in Afghanistan, what are the prospects for this year. The Pakistanis, for instance, have encouraged Afghanistan to go ahead and complete the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). And would like to see a responsible and gradual drawdown in American and NATO presence in the country,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Secretary of State, John Kerry, on Monday would host Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor, for a ministerial-level meeting of the Strategic Dialogue. This is the first high level consultations between the two countries after the October meeting between the US President Barack Obama and the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
A major focus of American discussions since Sharif took office has been helping to promote a stable and productive transition in Afghanistan through what’s going to be an important year with national elections, with the drawdown in US and NATO forces, the official said. “The Prime Minister has taken as a personal initiative improving Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan. He’s reached out personally to President Karzai. He invited President Karzai to visit Islamabad in the first couple of weeks of his term in office. He accepted an invitation by President Karzai to visit Afghanistan,” said the official praising Sharif.
“Karzai asked for and received Prime Minister Sharif’s support in trying to promote a peace process, a dialogue with the Taliban. And we’ve been pleased and have encouraged both sides to deepen this relationship,” the official said. Observing that both Afghanistan and Pakistan face a challenge from cross-border militancy, from Jihadist groups on both sides of the border that transit back and forth and that attack both societies and try to undermine both governments, the official said improving that relationship and improving management along that border is an area where US has encouraged the two sides to come together.
“I would guess that, along with the significant challenges Pakistan faces internally will be things they’ll want to tell us about and give us a sense of how they’re approaching those issues. We’ll be eager to know whether there are things we can do that might be helpful,” the official said. (PAN)