US secretary of state, COAS discuss political reconciliation in Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan and other issues.

A statement released on Thursday by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo and Gen Bajwa exchanged opinion regarding the bilateral relations, need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and the importance of eradicating all militant and terror outfits in South Asia without any discrimination.

“They discussed ways to advance US-Pakistani bilateral relations, the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without distinction,” the statement read.

Pakistan hosted the first direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in 2015, but they ended when Kabul announced the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Washington has talked up the prospects for peace many times and Pakistan has said it will help to ensure its neighbour’s stability.

Earlier this year, US had assured Pakistan that it does not want to sever bilateral ties with this important ally while Islamabad extended its “wholehearted support” to the US-backed Afghan offer of peace talks with the Taliban.

The statements had supplement renewed efforts to improve relations between the US and Pakistan which were once close allies in the war against terror.

The US-Pak relations have suffered a new low under President Donald Trump who wrote on his New Year tweet that Pakistan has “given us nothing but lies and deceit.” The aid that Washington sends to Islamabad has been suspended as well, primarily after the Trump administration accused the latter of providing safe havens to the terrorist outfits.

The US has also demanded of Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network as well as the Taliban, both of whom threaten and attack the US soldiers in Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, has denied all such allegations, maintaining that it would continue to wage its war against terrorism.

During May, the two countries imposed travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats working at the respective embassies. Pompeo, in this regard, had told lawmakers two weeks back that officials at the US embassy in Islamabad were not being treated well. Pakistan, in return, had offered a fast-track mechanism to address any complaints and asked US to discuss issues of mutual concern.

It is noteworthy that this is the first time since travel restrictions were imposed that a high-level reconciliation has taken place.

BILL GATES PHONES GEN BAJWA:

Later on, Bill Gates phoned Gen Bajwa and appreciated the efforts taken by Pakistan for the success of anti-polio drive. ISPR DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor wrote on Twitter, “Bill Gates called COAS. Acknowledged supporting efforts by Pakistan Army for successfully eradicating polio from Pakistan. COAS appreciated his efforts towards this noble cause and assured him continued full cooperation in best interest of Pakistan.”