Pompeo in Pakistan to break stalemate, push end for Afghan war

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday hoping to break a diplomatic stalemate with leaders there and end the war in neighboring Afghanistan, which will soon enter its 18th year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) participates in a press conference with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 9. File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of State/Flickr
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) participates in a press conference with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 9. File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Pompeo and a U.S. delegation were expected to meet Wednesday with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Islamabad’s new military chief.

U.S. relations with Pakistan have broken down in the past year since President Donald Trump accused the country of playing a double game — publicly supporting U.S. efforts while secretly supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan. Last week, the Pentagon decided not to offer $300 million in military aid to Pakistan.

So far, the United States has withheld $800 million in Coalition Support Funds this year.

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Pakistan leaders deny providing assistance to Afghan insurgents. Instead, they say the Taliban continues to recruit and capture more territory because of the U.S. presence and show of military force.

Pompeo is expected to convey the Trump administration’s desire to wind down the fighting in Afghanistan, which has continued since late 2001.

“We need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.

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Quereshi said his goal is to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

“Bilateral engagement is almost nonexistent, almost in total suspension,” he said. “So we need to look as to how to move forward. We will listen to their point of view and place our stance before them.”

Randall G. Schriver, assistant U.S. secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, didn’t sound as optimistic.

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“Our approach of cutting assistance and pressuring Pakistan on their relationship with the Taliban — persuading them to come to the table, dealing with terrorist networks — that will be sustained.”

Speaking to reporters on his way to Pakistan, Pompeo made clear what he wants from this round of diplomacy.

“The very reason for this trip is to try and articulate what it is our expectation is, the things that they can do, the things that they expect us to do and see if we can’t find a path forward together,” he said.

ByNicholas Sakelaris