US general says expects Islamabad to play key role in Afghan peace dialogue


US Army General Joseph Votel has stressed that Washington wants Islamabad to play a key role in promoting dialogue in Afghanistan, reported Reuters.

“We also need to see them continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.

Votel told a press briefing that he had seen positive signs from Islamabad but stressed that he wanted to see Pakistan put more pressure on Pakistan-based militants fighting in Afghanistan, including by arresting, expelling or targeting them.

Furthermore, he said that the United States is unlikely to make any big shift in military strategy as a result of an ongoing assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan.

Votel portrayed it more as a regular assessment than a wholesale review and suggested that he expected it would confirm progress, however uneven, in the nearly 17-year-old war.

“I don’t envision something … that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress,” Votel said.

Officials said Trump has shown signs of frustration over the lack of progress since he unveiled a strategy last August that committed to an open-ended deployment of US military advisers, trainers and special forces and increased air support for Afghan security forces. The stated US goal is to push the Taliban militants to work toward a peace agreement with the Kabul government.

Trump was opposed to remaining in America’s longest war, but was convinced by his advisers to press ahead. He authorised last year the deployment of an additional 3,000 US troops, bringing the total to around 15,000.

Trump has also piled pressure on neighbouring Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens on its side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.