US, Pakistani officials hold talks over Afghanistan


US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad to discuss bilateral ties, regional peace and the way forward in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

A statement from the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there was a “fundamental convergence between Pakistan and the United States on the need for a peaceful settlement” in Afghanistan.

“Foreign Minister noted that an inclusive and broad-based political structure reflecting the ethnic diversity of Afghan society was essential for Afghanistan’s stability and progress.”

Pakistan has been pressing for greater engagement with the all-male, all-Taliban cabinet in Kabul even as it shies away from any unilateral formal recognition.

The South Asian country has urged Washington to release billions of dollars to the Taliban so that Afghanistan’s new rulers can pay government employees their salaries and avoid an economic meltdown.

Since the Taliban takeover, billions of dollars in aid have been frozen. Nearly 80 percent of the former Afghan government’s budget was funded by international donors.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned such a crash could lead to mass migration.

The foreign affairs statement also said issues of bilateral cooperation and US-Pakistan relations were also discussed.

‘Regional stability’

Sherman, who arrived on Thursday for a two-day visit, also held meetings with Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, considered the leading architect of Pakistan’s Afghan strategy.

She also met Pakistan’s Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf late on Thursday to discuss “developments in Afghanistan and ways to advance cooperation across the bilateral relationship”.

In a brief statement, the US State Department said: “Deputy Secretary Sherman emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to Afghanistan and other issues vital to regional stability.”

Pakistan walks a fine line as it seeks to establish a relationship with the US in a changing region, where Russia and China have increasing influence.

A strident opponent of the US-led so-called “war on terror”, Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured Pakistanis that Washington would have no access to Pakistan’s territory for so-called “over-the-horizon” attacks on Afghanistan.

Washington, which spent the better part of two years negotiating peace with the Taliban, is still smarting from its chaotic end to 20 years in Afghanistan, and much about the aftermath remains unclear.

The US is quietly talking to some Taliban leaders to evacuate American nationals and others.


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