US Senior Diplomat Visits Pakistan

Developments in the situation in Taliban-held Afghanistan are likely to dominate talks between US Deputy Foreign Minister Wendy Sherman and senior Pakistani officials during the high-ranking diplomat’s visit to Islamabad this week.

Sherman, who is due to arrive late Thursday (7/10), is the most senior American diplomat to visit the country since President Joe Biden’s administration came to power on January 20.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar said “the exchange of views will cover issues of mutual interest, including bilateral relations and the situation in the region” in a meeting with the American delegation.

“We hope to re-strengthen balanced US-Pakistani relations, in mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields, including security, trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity,” Iftikhar said at a weekly press conference.

Pakistan-American relations, which have generally been poor, have come under pressure again after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15. Tensions are rooted in long-standing allegations that Pakistan has close ties and tacit support for the Taliban, as the insurgent group has been battling the US-backed Afghan government for nearly 20 years. Pakistan denies the accusations.

Late last month 22 Republican senators introduced a bill to impose tougher sanctions on the Taliban and all foreign governments that support the hardline group. The bill also seeks official input from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his review of the role Pakistan has played in supporting the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul. [em/lt]

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