WASHINGTON, Untied States: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard G. Olson praised Pakistan for taking important steps to support regional stability and has said that the country’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States on al-Qaeda has been critical in decimating the terrorist groups.
Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, Olson said that from a low point in 2011, the two countries have worked hard to build a more stable and forthright relationship that increasingly focused on shared strategic goals, shaped through the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
Praising Pakistan for taking to support regional stability, the SRAP said that last July, Pakistan facilitated a direct meeting between Afghan government and Taliban officials in Murree, Pakistan, a milestone in our ongoing efforts to pursue a political settlement in Afghanistan.
Pakistan hosted the regional Heart of Asia conference last week, attended by President Ghani, which yielded productive discussions about regional cooperation to advance the peace process and Afghanistan’s long-term stability, he added.
Mr. Olson said that on the margins of the conference, Pakistani, Afghan, Chinese, and US leaders affirmed their commitment to resuming direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“We believe Pakistan will be key to facilitating a peace process with the Taliban, and we hope Pakistan will follow through on its stated commitment to Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation,” he added.
He said a second round of Pakistani facilitated talks between the Taliban and Afghan Government could help to build momentum for a nascent peace process.
“We expect the next Strategic Dialogue Ministerial to be scheduled in the early part of next year, which will allow us to continue frank and open conversations on all of these issues.”
On bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States, Mr. Olson said that despite many challenges, Pakistan will continue to be an important partner for the United States for the foreseeable future, particularly in light of US enduring presence in Afghanistan.
The SARP said that it was important not to overlook the significant progress made in the last few years. He said that since taking over in 2013, the present government in the last two years has made progress across the economic and security factors.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his administration have restored macroeconomic stability to Pakistan and improved economic growth.
“Indeed, Pakistan has continued to make progress implementing its IMF programme. These improvements led Moody’s to increase Pakistan’s credit rating in May of this year.”
While structural changes are still needed to set Pakistan’s economy on a path to accelerated growth, he said that the reforms to date are a considerable accomplishment, and Pakistan presents commercial opportunities for many U.S. companies.