ISLAMABAD: A high-level US delegation is scheduled to visit Islamabad on Wednesday (tomorrow) to hold crucial talks with Pakistani authorities on Trump administration’s new strategy for South Asia – including Afghanistan.
The delegation is headed by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia and special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Alice Wells, officials said here on Monday.
The visit by senior Trump administration officials takes place at a time when Pakistan is undergoing a political transition after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister over concealing assets last Friday.
How Trump will shape Pakistan-US ties
Incidentally, the US officials will be in Islamabad on a day when Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will be attending his first day in office as ‘interim’ prime minister.
The incoming prime minister is likely to have the same cabinet, except for a few changes. This means that Sartaj Aziz is likely to continue as adviser on foreign affairs.
It is not clear how well the new government will be prepared to hold talks with US officials. The main briefing is expected to be given by the military authorities which, in any case, have a major say on the Afghan situation.
The main purpose of the visit is to get Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan and larger issues in South Asia. The delegation will also visit New Delhi and Kabul.
The Trump administration has not yet announced its policy as to how it wants to go about in Afghanistan, where all previous efforts could not achieve the desired results.
Reports suggested that the US wanted to send additional troops to break the stalemate in the war-torn country.
However, indications are that some officials in the Trump administration are seeking tough measures against Pakistan to persuade it to go hard after groups such as the Haqqani network.
'Pakistan, US need to work together to destroy IS before it gains foothold in Afghanistan'
Recently, the Pentagon announced that it would not be releasing the remainder of $50 million in military reimbursements to Pakistan after the secretary of defence refused to certify that Islamabad had taken sufficient action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
American military officials, however, clarified that withholding of funds should not be seen as part of the new strategy. They said despite blockade of funds, Pakistan’s importance in the context of Afghanistan had not diluted.
On Friday last, Secretary of Defence James Mattis admitted that the ongoing review of the US’ Afghanistan strategy was ‘hard’ because it had to be “wrapped into a regional context” involving Pakistan.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ