Pakistan has not taken “sustained or decisive” steps against terror safe havens as expected by the US, a top American diplomat has said, nearly a year after President Donald Trump unveiled his South Asia strategy accusing Islamabad of harbouring terrorists.
Alice G Wells, Senior Bureau Official for South and Central Asian Affairs said despite some positive indicators, the US has not yet seen Pakistan taking the sustained or decisive steps that it would have expected to see ten months after the announcement of the South Asia strategy, including “arresting or expelling Taliban elements who will not come to the negotiating table.”
The US, she said, is engaging with all of Afghanistan’s neighbours and near neighbours to build regional support for the Afghan government’s peace vision and discourage spoilers.
In her prepared testimony, Wells said the administration’s conditions-based South Asia Strategy ensures the Taliban cannot win on the battlefield. “But it recognises that a resolution to the conflict will be through a negotiated political settlement. Our desired outcomes for any peace process are clear and have not changed. The Taliban must renounce violence, break ties with al-Qaeda, and accept the Afghan Constitution including its protections for women and minorities,” she said.
According to Wells, after more than 16 years of war, there is a real opportunity this year to start an Afghan peace process that could lead to a durable settlement of the conflict.
“Such a settlement would help secure vital US interests and ultimately reduce the costs associated with America’s long-term engagement in Afghanistan,” she said.
“The basis for our cautious optimism starts with the Afghan government, which under President Ashraf Ghani’s strong leadership is doing everything possible to signal its openness to a dialogue with the Taliban,” she said.
According to Wells, recently, there have been signs that the Taliban’s Pakistan-based leaders are debating the merits of joining a peace process. However, the group has not responded to President Ghani’s offer of unconditional talks.
“We are pursuing a multi-track strategy to make clear to the Taliban that negotiations are their best option. The strategy has a number of distinct lines of effort quite apart from the military effort,” she said.