Pakistan, US continue to differ on Afghan policy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States struggle to find a ‘common ground’ on Afghanistan and other regional issues despite several rounds of the talks between the two countries, officials said.
To break the stalemate, President Donald Trump’s senior aide visited Islamabad for the second time in less than a month. Ambassador Alice Wells, the Department of State’s Senior Bureau Official, in a daylong trip held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
The Foreign Office only issued a picture showing Wells and Janjua shaking hands before the talks. The US Embassy did release a statement but that also offered little insight into the latest round of discussions.
The statement, nevertheless, said Ambassador Wells in her meeting with the foreign secretary discussed the status of the US South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability.
But a senior Pakistani official familiar with the talks told media that there was no tangible progress as far as finding a common ground on Afghanistan endgame was concerned.
“Talks remained inconclusive,” the official said, adding that the only positive thing was that the two sides were still talking to each other.
At the heart of the controversy is Trump administration’s insistence that Pakistan take decisive action against alleged safe havens of the ‘Haqqani network, Quetta Shura and Lashkar-e-Taiba’, according to another official.
“Pakistan does not share the US perspective. We believe that we have taken adequate action against all groups without any discrimination,” said the official.
While the US may have its own list of demands, Pakistan is also not satisfied with the US response so far regarding addressing Islamabad’s concerns on issues such as growing footprint of Indian secret agencies in Afghanistan. At the same time, Islamabad is upset over the manner with which the Trump administration is blaming it for the current mess in Afghanistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been on downward spiral since Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. Trump while lashing out at Pakistan for ‘not doing enough’ sought greater role for India in Afghanistan.
Relations hit an all-time low when Trump in his New Year tweet accused Pakistan of ‘lies and deceit’. His administration subsequently suspended the entire security assistance in a bid to punish Pakistan for ‘not taking a decisive action’ against the alleged hideouts of certain militant groups.
Tensions continued to simmer between the two countries in recent weeks with the latest move by Washington to impose travel restrictions on the Pakistani diplomats posted in the US.
Officials said the foreign secretary did raise the issue with Ambassador Wells. Another hiccup is the involvement of a US defence attaché in a road accident in which a 22-year-old young Pakistan was killed.
While the government admitted that the American military adviser enjoys diplomatic immunity, the victim family wants him to be tried in Pakistan.