Pakistan, US diplomats discuss efforts to make progress on regional security

Senior Pakistani and United States diplomats on Monday discussed progress on President Donald Trump’s Afghan strategy amid tensions over travel restrictions by both countries on diplomats, the US Embassy said.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad in her second visit to Pakistan in less than a month. She paid a week-long visit to Pakistan late last month after she attended an international conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on March 26-27.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed the meeting on his Twitter account but did not offer more comments.

A US embassy’s brief statement said Ambassador Alice Wells visited Islamabad for meetings with Foreign Secretary Janjua and other senior officials.

“In her meetings, she discussed the status of the United States’ South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability,” the statement said.

President Trump’s strategy announced in August last year mainly focused on troops surge and increase in air strikes against the Taliban to weaken and force them to come to the negotiation table.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field,” Trump had stated in his policy speech.

However, the latest US military assessment has presented a bleak security situation. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which regularly provides analysis of the now-releasable control data for Congress and the public, disclosed in its report that “the percentage of districts under insurgent control or influence has doubled since 2015.” “The percentage of contested districts has increased by nearly 50 percent since 2015. The percentage of districts under government control or influence had decreased by over 20 percent since 2015,” Sigar said, just days ahead of the start of the Taliban spring offensive.

President Trump had recognised that “military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan” and that “strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.”