In phone call with Army chief Gen. Bajwa, Lloyd J. Austin reaffirms the importance of Islamabad and Washington’s bilateral ties
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday appreciated Pakistan’s support for the ongoing Afghanistan peace process, and reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, to discuss regional stability and security,” read a statement issued by the Pentagon following the call. It said that Austin and Bajwa had also discussed America’s plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, as well as the importance of regional stability and the desire to continue “working together on shared goals and objectives in the region.”
A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistan Army’s media wing, added that Gen. Bajwa had informed the U.S. official that “Pakistan will always support ‘Afghan-led [and] Afghan-owned’ peace process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.” He also reiterated his belief that peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan.
There has been a surge in meetings between U.S. officials and the leadership of Pakistan’s military following President Joe Biden’s declaration that Washington would withdraw its entire troop deployment in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. At the time, Pakistan’s Foreign Office welcomed the announcement, but added that any troop withdrawal should coincide with progress in the ongoing peace process.
Intra-Afghan negotiations were slated to begin on April 24 in Turkey, but were postponed after the Taliban refused to participate. Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations—co-hosts of the talks—have said they would organize it after Eidul Fitr.