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ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Islamabad today, for a daylong visit to hold talks with new Prime Minister Imran Khan to “reset ties between the two countries.”
He landed at the Noor Khan airbase where Pakistani officials received him. US military chief of staff Gen Joseph Dunford and US commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicolson are accompanying him.
During his stay in the federal capital, the top US diplomat will hold talks with PM Imran Khan, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as well as his counterpart, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Earlier, speaking on-board a plane for a trip to South Asia, Pompeo said he was hoping to “reset the relationship” with Islamabad, adds AFP.
He also announced that Zalmay Khalilzad, a high profile former US ambassador, had been named to a new role to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.
Pompeo’s conciliatory remarks toward the South Asian giant come days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid over Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of American strategy in the region.
“So first stop — Pakistan. New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries,” he said.
“There are lot of challenges between our two nations for sure but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” added Pompeo.
He suggested that the election of Khan, who has vowed to seek better relations with the US, could provide a fresh impetus.
“Look, I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are real expectations,” he said.
“I’m hopeful we can convince them to provide that assistance,” he continued, adding that in his conversations with Khan, they had agreed that peace in Afghanistan was a “shared goal.”
Pompeo also held out the possibility the military aid could be restored under the right circumstances.
“We were providing these resources when it made sense for the United States because the partnership was in a place where the actions of our two countries made sense to do that,” he said. “If that arises again, I’m confident we’ll present to the president the rationale for that.”
His conciliatory remarks toward the South Asian country come days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid over Islamabad’s lack of “decisive action” in support of American strategy in the region.
A new tone?
The latest remarks represent a shift in tone toward the nuclear-armed Muslim country and its new prime minister, a former cricketer who came to office in July amid concerns he would remain tolerant of terror groups.
At the time of the vote, the US noted what it called “flaws” in Pakistan’s pre-electoral process but said it was nonetheless ready to work with the new government.
Pompeo also confirmed that Khalilzad, who previously served as US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, would be appointed to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.
“Ambassador Khalilzad is going to join the State Department team to assist us in the reconciliation effort, so he will come on and be the State Department’s lead person for that purpose,” he said.
Pompeo will then travel to India where he will be joined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to meet with their Indian counterparts on a range of key defense and trade issues.