US urges ‘decisive’ steps by Pakistan for Afghan peace


WASHINGTON: The United States is calling for “sustained and decisive steps” by Pakistan to bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table with the Afghan government, reported Associated Press.

The militant group has resumed attacks after respecting a brief ceasefire last month.

The top diplomat for South Asia, Alice Wells, has just returned from talks with leaders in both countries. She met Pakistan’s powerful army chief Tuesday. She welcomed positive steps by Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve ties, but said Pakistan needs to take political initiatives to help drive an Afghan peace process.

She urged Pakistan to expel Taliban leaders and press them to negotiate with Kabul.

Wells spoke to reporters in Washington Thursday.

The White House has been ratcheting up pressure on Islamabad to crack down on extremist groups operating in the country after suspending military aid to Pakistan in January because of its inaction on the issue.

Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing safe haven to its leaders, charges Islamabad denies.

Pakistan, in return, has accused Afghanistan of sheltering the Pakistani Taliban.

Afghan security forces resumed offensive missions on Saturday after Ghani declared an end to an 18-day ceasefire that had been extended once.

The government’s unilateral truce overlapped with the Taliban’s three-day ceasefire for Eid, but the militants refused to prolong it.

There is increasing debate within the Taliban leadership over how to respond to the growing pressure to take part in talks, a Western official said.

“I think there are real opportunities now after 17 years of war and mounting international consensus to achieve the kind of talks and schedule that President Ghani laid out,” the official said.