ISLAMABAD: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Friday emphasised on the importance of a “coordinated approach” to Afghanistan and other issues vital to regional stability during her meetings with top Pakistani leaders who have been pressing for greater international engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul.
Sherman, the most senior American diplomat under US President Joe Biden administration to visit Pakistan, met Pakistani National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf on Thursday and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday.
She travelled to Islamabad from New Delhi on Thursday on a two-day visit to discuss various aspects of the strained bilateral ties with Pakistan and the regional situation in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Deputy Secretary Sherman “emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to Afghanistan and other issues vital to regional stability,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a brief readout of her meeting with Qureshi in Islamabad.
Sherman discussed areas of bilateral cooperation, the importance of the US-Pakistan relationship and the way forward in Afghanistan, Prince said.
Sherman and Yusuf discussed developments in Afghanistan and ways to advance cooperation across the bilateral relationship, Prince said in another readout of the meeting.
Sherman’s stress on the importance of a “coordinated approach” to Afghanistan comes as Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, have been urging the international community to engage more actively with the interim government in Kabul led by the Taliban.
A leading Pakistani newspaper reported that the Biden administration is focusing on four major points in its talks with Pakistan – recognition of the Taliban government in Kabul, international sanctions on Afghanistan, access to Afghanistan and counter-terrorism cooperation.
Quoting a senior diplomatic source, the Dawn newspaper reported that the US does not want Pakistan to recognise the Taliban regime before the rest of the international community.
According to the source, the US does not want Pakistan to recognise the Taliban regime before the rest of the international community. Instead, it wants Pakistan to continue its efforts for softening the Taliban position on controversial issues, such as inclusive governance, human rights, girls’ education and allowing women to work.
According to state-run Radio Pakistan, National Security Advisor Yusuf said the world must maintain contacts with the interim government in Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban rule since August 15 when the Afghan militant group ousted the elected government of President Ashraf Ghani, forcing him to flee the country and take refuge in the UAE.
During his meeting with Sherman, Pakistani foriegn minister Qureshi said the current situation in Afghanistan requires positive engagement of the international community, urgent provision of humanitarian assistance, release of Afghan financial resources, and measures to help build a sustainable economy to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people.
He expressed hope that the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan would make “concerted efforts” for peace and stability in the war-torn country.
Qureshi stressed that there was a fundamental convergence between Pakistan and the United States on the need for a peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan, the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement.
The two sides exchanged views on bilateral relations, Afghanistan and regional peace and stability, the statement said.
Qureshi “expressed hope that the new setup in Afghanistan would make concerted efforts for peace and stability as well as work towards the betterment of the lives of all Afghan people”, the FO said.
Qureshi underlined that an inclusive and broad-based political structure, reflecting the ethnic diversity of Afghan society, was essential for Afghanistan’s stability and progress.
In the context of Pakistan-US bilateral relations, he underlined Pakistan’s commitment to forging a broad-based, long-term and sustainable relationship anchored in economic cooperation, regional connectivity, and peace in the region.
Pakistan’s relationship with the US is under renewed pressure following the dramatic Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. The tensions are based on Washington’s stand that Pakistan has had deep ties with, and covertly supported, the Taliban, as the Islamist insurgents battled the US-backed Afghan government.
Qureshi said a regular and structured dialogue process between Pakistan and the US was vital for promoting common interests and advancing shared regional objectives.
He also emphasised the importance of peacefully resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute for durable peace and stability in South Asia, the statement said.
Qureshi and Sherman agreed to continue close communication and coordination on the situation in Afghanistan, security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, climate change, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity.
Earlier in the day, Sherman tweeted that she met Qureshi “to discuss Afghanistan’s future and the important and long-standing US-Pakistan relationship”.
“We look forward to continuing to address pressing regional and global challenges,” she said.
Last month, a group of 22 Republican senators introduced legislation to impose sanctions on the Taliban and on all foreign governments that support the hardline Islamic group. The bill also seeks official input from Secretary of State Antony Blinken about his assessment of the role Pakistan played in supporting the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan last month, seizing control of almost all key towns and cities in the backdrop of withdrawal of the US forces that began on May 1. On August 15, the capital city of Kabul fell to the insurgents.
The Afghan militant group claimed victory over opposition forces in the last holdout province of Panjshir on September 6, completing their takeover of Afghanistan three weeks after capturing Kabul.
The Taliban have put in place a hardline interim 33-member Cabinet that has no women and includes UN-designated terrorists. The Taliban last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.