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Mariana Baabar
January 16, 2018

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After Trump tweet trouble, US official in Islamabad for damage control

After Trump tweet trouble, US official in Islamabad for damage control

ISLAMABAD: Recognising and conceding that Pakistan has been successful in eradicating terrorism and vigorous Pak-US relations are essential to ensure stability inside Afghanistan and the region at large, the Trump administration sent its Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells to Islamabad on Monday on a two-day visit.

Both countries agreed that all initiatives owned and led by the Afghans for seeking a peaceful solution should be supported by the regional countries, while the US appreciated Pakistan’s positive role in several peace initiatives. This is the first public visit by a US official after President Trump’s January 1 policy tweet on Pakistan, in which Ambassador Wells was also asked to advise restraint to India to stop its escalatory tactics against Pakistan.

Ambassador Alice Wells admitted that “Pakistan’s relationship with the United States needed to move forward under an environment of mutual trust and respect”, acknowledging: “Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism while conveying the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan”.

Earlier on Saturday, Washington also heard a tough message from army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who told US Centom commander during a phone call that Pakistan would not be and has not been interested in the resumption of financial aid and it is time for the Trump administration to honour Pakistan’s contributions, sacrifices and its resolve against terrorism, which would continue with or without the US financial aid.

The Monday’s meeting at the Foreign Office saw Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua lead the Pakistan side together with her senior diplomats, while committing to continue its efforts for promoting peace and stability in the region.

It was in August last year that Janjua asked Ambassador Alice, then due to visit to Islamabad, to postpone her arrival as a strong diplomatic reaction to Trump’s Afghanistan policy in which he had criticised Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had also warned Pakistan that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally if it continues giving 'safe haven' to Afghan militant groups.

“Ambassador Wells is accompanied by senior officials from the US National Security Council and Ambassador David Hale. It s a scheduled visit, part of regular engagement between the two countries on bilateral and regional cooperation,” the spokesman at the FO said in a statement. The foreign secretary underscored that the relationship with the United States needed to move forward under an environment of mutual trust and respect.

“The US delegation was apprised about the recent counter-terrorism actions taken by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies that contributed to visible improvement in the security situation of Pakistan. It was mentioned that these comprehensive counter-terrorism actions would also contribute towards peace and stability in the entire region," Janjua told the visiting US dignitary.

During the meeting, Ambassador Wells acknowledged the importance of the longstanding bilateral relationship, and Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism and conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan. She added that as an immediate neighbour and an important country of the region, Pakistan’s support is critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan. “To this end, Ambassador Wells underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation between the two sides to improve coordination in counter-terrorism efforts,” said the statement.

Turning to Afghanistan and the regional situation, Ambassador Wells was told about the continued use of Afghan soil by the elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability. In fact, every time a Pakistani terrorist returns from Afghanistan and gives up his arms, he also confesses to the support that Pakistan Taliban and Jamaat-ul Ahrar receive from Afghan and Indian intelligence services under the nose of the American generals. “In the context of the regional situation, the foreign secretary added that strengthening border management mechanisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan are vital to addressing concerns relating to cross-border movements,” added the statement.

Once again, the US was told about the urgency or the early repatriation of Afghan refugees, which is also important for improving relations with Afghanistan. For too long, the terrorists coming over from Afghanistan find these refugee camps a convenient place to hide, the Pakistani side made it clear.

The foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue its efforts for promoting peace and stability in the region. While as the US not only looks away from the continuing atrocities inside Kashmir and focuses only on pushing India to emerge as a regional power, Ambassador Wells’ attention was drawn to the recent irresponsible statements by the Indian Army chief and the pattern of escalation by India on the LoC and the Working Boundary. Pakistan also condemned the Indian mortar attacks on its posts. Washington has not said a word publicly about the Indian Army chief’s remarks on entering into a nuclear battle by testing whether Pakistan has capable nuclear weapons. Pakistan also condemned the Indian use of IEDs resulting in the martyrdom of Pakistani soldiers last night.

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