U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wound up talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Wednesday, making it clear that Pakistan had a long way to go before security assistance could be restored. The U.S. had only last week suspended $300 million in military support funds to Pakistan, citing its failure to take action against terrorists and militants.
In Washington DC, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “Secretary Pompeo emphasised the role Pakistan could play in bringing about negotiated peace in Afghanistan and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability.”
But Pompeo also underscored Washington’s longstanding ties with the Pak military, seen as the main power broker in that country. He noted that “the military to military relationship is one that has remained in place where some of the other relationships haven’t frankly”. “We need to begin to do things that will actually on the ground deliver outcomes so we can begin to build confidence and trust,” he added.
A statement issued by the Pakistan foreign ministry said improving relations with neighbours was a priority and underscored “the need for the Taliban to seize the opportunity for talks in response to (Afghan) President Ghani’s offer for an unconditional dialogue.”
It also quoted Pompeo as conveying his country’s desire to “work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Earlier, on the flight to Islamabad, Pompeo told journalists that he hoped to reset relations with Pakistan. “There are lots of challenges between our two nations for sure but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership we can find common ground and begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” he said.
The suspension of $300 million in military support funds was part of a broader pullback of military aid for Pakistan announced by the U.S. in January this year. The administration said Pakistan was not taking strong enough steps to combat the Taliban and other groups.
Pompeo’s trip was to articulate U.S. expectations, what specific steps Pakistan could take, and understand what Islamabad expected from Washington. Pompeo was quoted as telling journalists on the flight that “we need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan. I hope we can find a way to achieve it together”.
Pompeo is in Delhi today for the inaugural round of the ‘2+2’ dialogue.
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