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A State Department contractor adjust a Pakistan national flag before a meeting at the State Department in Washington February 19, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files

US-Pak ties at cross road: Hoping to ‘reset relationship’ with Pakistan, says Pompeo

BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI

ISLAMABAD- The bilateral relations between  Pakistan and US at cross road. Both the countries have long history of partnership on regional and global level.During war against terror and cold war era both the countries enjoyed closed partnership.But for last few years the two countries’ relations faced  big challenges.

Commenting on coming his visit to Pakistan the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he was hoping to “reset the relationship” with Pakistan ahead of a trip to Islamabad to meet with new Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Speaking on a plane ahead of a trip to South Asia, Pompeo also announced that Zalmay Khalilzad, a high profile former US ambassador, had been named to a new role to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Pompeo’s conciliatory remarks toward Pakistan come days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid over Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of American strategy in the region.

But the former CIA director, who is making his first visit as his nation’s top diplomat to the wayward ally whose support is vital in the long-running Afghan conflict, said it was time to “turn the page.”

“So first stop — Pakistan. New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries,” he said.

“There are lot of challenges between our two nations for sure but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” added Pompeo, who will be joined by General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The White House believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.

Pompeo suggested that the election of Khan, who has vowed to seek better relations with the US, could provide a fresh impetus.

“Look, I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are real expectations,” he said.

A new tone?

The latest remarks represent a shift in tone toward the nuclear-armed Muslim country and its new prime minister, a former cricketer who came to office in July.

At the time of the vote, the US noted what it called “flaws” in Pakistan’s pre-electoral process but said it was nonetheless ready to work with the new government.

Pompeo also confirmed that Khalilzad, who previously served as US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, would be appointed to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.

“Ambassador Khalilzad is going to join the State Department team to assist us in the reconciliation effort, so he will come on and be the State Department’s lead person for that purpose,” he said.

Pompeo will then travel to India where he will be joined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to meet with their Indian counterparts on a range of key defense and trade issues.

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