20 Oct 17/Friday

CIA Director Mike Pompeo says that “United States wants to draw the Taliban into peace talks in Afghanistan, but for that to happen, Pakistan must first ensure the militants cannot establish safe havens within its borders”.

The United States “is going to do everything we can, to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan, with the Taliban having zero hope that they can win this thing on the battlefield,” he said. “To do that you cannot have a safe haven in Pakistan.”

He goes on to emphasise that CIA believes a U.S.-Canadian couple kidnapped by Haqqani militants in Afghanistan in 2012, were held in captivity in Pakistan for five years before being freed last week. This has out rightly rejected the story given by Pakistani officials, who said last week the family was rescued in Pakistan shortly after they crossed over from Afghanistan.

Pompeo’s remarks which has come before the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s scheduled visit to Islamabad next week, quickly extinguished the hope of normalisation of US-Pak relation in the aftermath of premature Tweet by American President, indicating improvement in confidence in working with Pakistan. Tillerson said on October 18 that the United States expects Pakistan “to take decisive action against terrorist groups.”

Pakistan is also quite miffed about remarks of US envoy to United Nations, Nikki Haley, about the possible role for India of ‘keeping an eye on Pakistan’. This Blow Hot- Blow Cold on part of US is being seen as part of Donald Trump’s new strategy of placing pressure on Islamabad to rid its border area of extremist groups as part of a new push to try to win or end the 16-year U.S. war in Afghanistan.

On the other hand Pakistani media has hailed rescue of US-Canadian couple as a proof of its commitment towards ending terrorism. Pakistan feels that as the reality of the present politics of the region sets in, the Trump administration will realise that it needs Pakistan – both to defeat militancy and help bring about an end to the Afghan war. But acknowledgement of this reality does not means American priorities have changed. Relations between Pakistan and the US have been gradually back-sliding for years. The difference now is that both countries are relatively open about the nature of this relationship. That surely puts bilateral relations between the two countries on thin ice and prompts them to deal with each other seriously.

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