At a briefing at the State Department, spokesman Philip Crowley also acknowledged that Pakistan had historical interests in Afghanistan.
The State Department official confirmed that Islamabad’s role in settling the Afghan dispute would also be discussed during the three-day US-Pakistan strategic dialogue that began in Washington on Wednesday.
Mr Crowley told journalists: “We have assured Pakistan that it has an appropriate role to play in resolving the situation in Afghanistan.”
But, he added, the Afghan government had “also made clear that solving its challenge within Afghanistan involves effective action on the Pakistan side of the border”.
The link between the two, Mr Crowley noted, was “an essential element” of the US strategy for the region. “We need to have aggressive action both in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we’re going to defeat this extremist threat,” he said.
The State Department official said that as the talks between the Afghan and Taliban representatives moved forward, “we will discuss within the strategic dialogue this week ways in which Pakistan can be a part of this broader effort.”
He confirmed that Pakistani officials had already met Afghan officials to discuss this very subject.
When a journalist referred to US media reports claiming that the ISI was allegedly trying to subvert the peace talks to ensure that Pakistan had a role in the discussions too, Mr Crowley said: “We do not want to see efforts by any entity to prevent political reconciliation. This is a fundamental part of our strategy and Pakistan does have a legitimate role to play in supporting this process.”
He noted that while the broader process of reconciliation was an Afghan-led effort, “we do see a role for Pakistan to be involved.”
“What role?” he was asked.
“Well, not the least of which is because we believe that there are elements involved in insurgency that exist in the areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” replied Mr Crowley.
“And we understand that there are historical interests here. There are relationships here. That’s why we have talked to Pakistan about playing a constructive role in supporting an Afghan-led reconciliation process.” “Should Pakistan have a seat at the table in that effort?” he was asked.
“The nature of that role I think is up to discussions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We recognise that countries have an interest in the future of the region and we see this as part of a regional strategy,” said Mr Crowley. “Pakistan has an interest in a stable Afghanistan. Other countries do as well. And to the extent that Pakistan can play a role in supporting an Afghan-led process, that is something that we have discussed with Pakistan, but more importantly that’s something that Pakistan has discussed with Afghanistan.” The State Department said he was not in a position to answer the question whether the ISI was actually trying to undermine the Kabul talks, “but I think we are talking to Pakistan. We’ll discuss this as a dimension of our strategic dialogue this week.”
He pointed out Pakistan and Afghanistan had already held discussions to resolve the situation and the US believed that there needs to be effective action on both sides of the border.
When an Indian journalist asked Mr Crowley if he believed the issue of terrorist elements within Pakistan could be resolved during the strategic dialogue, he reminded the journalist that he was missing the main thrust of the talks.
“Goyal, I don’t mean to be picky here, but you’re trying to reduce, the Pakistan strategic dialogue to one thing, and we have to have one solution,” he said.
“We have 13 working groups. We have a strategic relationship with Pakistan. We are doing a variety of things on the security side, the agricultural side, the institutional side. We’re helping Pakistan build its institutions. We’re helping Pakistan develop a deeper relationship with its own people. We’re helping Pakistan recover from a devastating flood,” he said.
“We are committed to Pakistan for the long-term. This is about a long-term relationship. It’s not about solving one problem this week.”