Pak army chief’s U.S. visit to focus on Afghanistan, peace talks

Gen Raheel Sharif (Credit:
Gen Raheel Sharif

Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Raheel Sharif during his U.S. visit this week will hold talks with top defence officials and discuss key issues like the Afghanistan situation, facilitating peace parleys with the Taliban and Indo—Pak ties, officials said on Sunday.

General Raheel, during his visit from November 15—20, will meet top American defence officials amid indications that the U.S. wants Pakistan to revive reconciliation talks with the Afghan Taliban, considered close to the spy agency ISI.

Significantly, Gen. Raheel is visiting the U.S. on his own as there was no official invitation either from his American counterpart or the Pentagon.

A Pakistani official said Pakistan is ready to play its role in the reconciliation process but the statements by Afghan government blaming the country for the recent deadly attacks by the Taliban have vitiated the atmosphere.

“The issue of peace in Afghanistan will be part of talks in Washington and Pakistan will like to have assurance of action against militants involved in attacks in return for pushing Taliban for talks,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan has been demanding action against militants like chief of Pakistani Taliban Mullah Fazlullah, who is allegedly hiding in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said last month that his government was trying to arrange talks with the Taliban but nothing concrete has come out so far.

Earlier, the first open round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were held in Murree near Islamabad in July and another round scheduled later was cancelled when the news of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s death surfaced.

Gen. Raheel will also brief the U.S. officials about security relations with India after deadly border clashes in recent months raised fears that the conflict might spiral out of control, officials said.

Gen. Raheel would meet Vice President Joe Biden. Other meetings that he would have during his stay in Washington include with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford, Army Chief of Staff Gen Mark Milley and Director CIA John Brennan.

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