A senior US diplomat on Saturday denied his visit to Pakistan was to push for a military offensive in the border region of North Waziristan, which Washington regards as a haven for militants.
“No, I am here to continue the conversation we have been having with Pakistani leaders over the past several months,” US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman said in a talk show on state-run Pakistan Television.
Grossman, who arrived in Islamabad on Saturday for talks with political and military leaders, had been asked if his visit was aimed at pushing Pakistan to carry out a military operation in North Waziristan.
Washington considers Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwestern tribal region, which includes North Waziristan, as the main hub of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
The Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, is one of the thorniest issues in relations between Islamabad and Washington.
Washington has long demanded that Pakistan take action against the Haqqanis, who the US accused of attacking the US embassy in Kabul last year and acting like a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.
“On [the] particular question of North Waziristan [offensive] or any other question, that is the decision for the government of Pakistan and solely for the government of Pakistan,” Grossman said.
However, he declined to comment on the issue of US drone strikes, saying “it is not a topic of conversation for me.”
“What I would like to say is that Pakistanis and Americans can stand up together and declare the end of al-Qaeda in this region. That would be a great joint strategic effort and that I hope will come soon,” he added.
Islamabad and Washington have been seeking to patch up their fractious relationship in recent months, with Pakistan allowing the reopening of the NATO supply route to Afghanistan after a series of crises last year saw ties between the “war on terror” allies plunge.
Yet the attacks by unmanned US aircraft remain contentious and are deeply unpopular in Pakistan.
US officials say the drone strikes are a key weapon in the fight against militants, but peace campaigners condemn them as a breach of international law.
Pakistanis call them a violation of sovereignty that breeds extremism and politicians have accused Islamabad of complicity in killing its own people.
The US diplomat said the relationship between the two countries was “certainly back on track if you compare it with last year.”
“What draws our countries together in this multi-faceted relationship is the fact that we are both victims of terrorism,” he added.
Grossman also held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar which focused on a “wide range of issues of mutual interest particularly Pakistan-US relations and the regional situation,” an official statement said.
“They also expressed the commitment to continue to work together in support of Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and for progress and stability in the country,” the statement said.
Grossman also met Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani and discussed “matters of mutual interest and peace and stability in Afghanistan,” a military official told reporters.