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US pointman on Afghanistan to visit Pakistan this week: report


WASHINGTON: US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West is expected to visit Pakistan later this week as part of his upcoming trip to Europe and Asia to discuss developments in the crisis-hit nation, where almost 23 million people are threatened with starvation.

“[Within] my upcoming travels, I do plan to visit Pakistan, Russia and India,” Sputnik news agency quoted West as saying during a briefing.

West further disclosed he will be in Pakistan “later this week”.

With winter approaching, deeply impoverished Afghanistan has emerged from all-out war into a humanitarian crisis. Millions face growing hunger amid soaring food prices, a drought and an economy in freefall, fueled by a hard cash shortage, sanctions on Taliban leaders and a financial aid cutoff.

The Taliban also are confronting increasing attacks by their ideological foe, Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K.

West’s first stop was Brussels where his discussions with allies and partners focused on the way forward on Afghanistan.

In Belgium capital, West said Washington was “worried about the uptick in ISIS-K attacks, and we want the Taliban to be successful against them. When it comes to other (militant) groups, look, al-Qaeda continues to have a presence there that we’re very concerned about.”

US officials believe that ISIS-K could develop the ability to strike outside of Afghanistan within six to 12 months and that al-Qaeda could do the same within one to two years.

In Brussels, he also briefed NATO allies on US talks with the Taliban and held consultations on a “road map” toward recognition of the government that the group formed after their takeover and the American troop pullout in August.

West said that Washington was not now seriously considering reopening its Kabul embassy, and wanted to see the Taliban “establish a record of responsible conduct” before assessing that option.

An old Afghanistan hand, West replaced his boss Zalmay Khalilzad in October who stepped down less than two months after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He has also served on then-vice president Joe Biden’s national security team and on the National Security Council staff.

His appointment indicates the Biden administration’s desire to stay engaged with Afghanistan despite the withdrawal.





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