18 April 2017

News Report: McMaster Talks to Civilian, Military Leaders in Pakistan

H.R. McMaster (Image: Wiki Commons)
Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is in Pakistan where he is holding meetings with both civilian and military officials on bilateral security matters and efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

McMaster arrived in Islamabad Monday, a day after holding talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul to review and assess the situation with regard to the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in the country.

After McMaster’s meeting with Pakistan's foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, an official statement said Islamabad conveyed its concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

It added that Aziz "reaffirmed” Pakistan’s commitment to work with the international community to support efforts for Afghan peace and reconciliation. The statement noted McMaster acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in combating extremism and terrorism.

“He renewed the commitment of the new administration to work closely with Pakistan in strengthening mutually beneficial relations and towards the shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” it said.

This is McMaster's first trip to the region since becoming U.S. President Donald Trump's national security advisor, and it comes in the wake of calls by military commanders for adding “several thousand” troops to 8,400 U.S. forces already in Afghanistan to help break the "stalemate" in the battle with the Taliban.

No comment on more US troops

Speaking to a local Afghan television station after concluding his meetings in Kabul, McMaster withheld comments on whether a new strategy the Trump administration is putting together will include a boost to American troop strength in Afghanistan.

"Well, part of the new strategy will be what the president decides it is. What we are doing here is to…President Trump to decide, really, what is the best course of action to begin to accelerate progress in the war and to help bring lasting peace and security to the Afghan people," the American advisor told TOLOnews.

He also had a message for leaders in Pakistan where Afghan officials allege Taliban insurgents have established sanctuaries and conduct attacks inside Afghanistan with the help of intelligence agency of the neighboring country.

Strained relationship

“As all of us have hoped for many many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” McMaster said.

Pakistani officials reject allegations of harboring the Taliban and maintain recent counterterrorism operations have dismantled terrorism infrastructure, particularly in border areas. Islamabad insists the insurgents have fled to dozens of Afghan districts currently under controlled by the Taliban.

Allegations and counter allegations with regard to sheltering anti-state militants and sponsoring terrorist attacks against each other have in recent years deteriorated relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.