Pompeo could visit Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace

United States (US) Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is expected to visit Islamabad in the first week of September.

According to sources, the US secretary will hold talks with newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team on issues of mutual interest.

Pompeo, who is expected in Islamabad on September 5, will be the first foreign dignitary to meet the newly elected premier, who sworn in on Saturday.

During his talks with Pakistani officials, Pompeo may focus on efforts to revive once close ties between the two states and Pakistan’s support for a US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process, sources said.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells may also accompany Pompeo.

Earlier this week, US exhorted Pakistan to help end the Afghan war, adding that recent terror spree in Afghanistan had not discouraged them from negotiating peace with some Taliban factions.

“What we’re seeing here is, there are some factions, some elements of the Taliban that clearly are not on board with peace. Others do want to have peace negotiations and peace discussions,” said State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert while commenting on recent terrorist attacks in Kabul.

On Tuesday, a senior US official reminded Pakistan that now was the time to peacefully end the decades-old war in Afghanistan and encouraged Islamabad to play a leading role in peace process.

Apparently, Washington believes that Pakistan still has enough influence over the Afghan Taliban to persuade them to join the peace process, and wants Islamabad to help establish a political setup in Kabul that can allow a peaceful withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the US State Department said that it recognises and welcomes the new Pakistani prime minister, dispelling the impression that Washington is not happy with Imran Khan’s election.

In an earlier statement, a senior US official had expressed hope that new government in Pakistan would work with the US for mutual achievements.

“We recognise and welcome the newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on taking the oath of office,” Nauert said. Usually, the State Department prefers to comment on such issues on a working day but Nauert released this statement on Saturday, hours after Khan took the oath of his office.

“For over 70 years, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been a vital one,” she said. “The United States looks forward to working with Pakistan’s new civilian government to promote peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the region.”