ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was ready for US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the region. US and Pakistani officials had exchanged messages over the development before the announcement, officials told Daily Times. “The visits of President Trump’s National Security Adviser Gen McMaster and Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells were also part of the contacts on the issue,” an official source told Daily Times. Besides McMaster, other senior US military officials, including CENTCOM Chief General Joseph Votel travelled to Pakistan in August. Earlier in July, a group of senators also visited Islamabad to press Pakistan for taking action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Senator John McCain, the Senate’s Armed Services Committee chairman, had warned after his trip to Islamabad that the US would change its policy if Pakistan did not change. “They (US officials) asked Pakistan to take categorical action against Haqqani Network and the Tehreek Taliban Afghanistan (TTA),” the official said. “Our stance was that action against the Afghan elements is continuing. But we cannot afford a major war on our soil because TTA could join hands groups like TTP, Jamaatul Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda and Daesh to fight against Pakistan. Space is available in Afghanistan for these and other groups, including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Uzbeks. It is up-to the Afghan government and the foreigners to deal with these groups there. Pakistan is not responsible for the groups operating on the Afghan side,” the official said. He said that Pakistani officials had always pushed for effective border management to stop cross-border movement of the militants. “However, Afghan side has never responded positively,” he said. “The civil and military leaders have come up with a unanimous approach that we will not follow the US dictations. The government has a very valid point,” the official said. To a question about postponement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s visit to US, he said there was the unanimous perception that the visit would only convey Pakistan’s “weaknesses” following President Trump’s threatening posture. In his telephonic contact with Asif, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had suggested Pakistan’s engagement to discus areas of cooperation and mutually work out a way out. “Asif was ready for the visit, but when Trump announced the review, it changed the situation and the mood in Pakistan. Then the government reviewed the situation and decided the visit will have no immediate impact.” “We are willing to talk to the US, but now our focus is on consulting all regional countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey,” he said. To a question about the possibility of Pakistan-US talks, he said: “We have not shut the doors on talks with the US. Pakistan could have high-level engagements during the next month UN General Assembly session with the US. We hope that the foreign minister will hold discussions with some regional countries before the UN General Assembly.” To another question about the reconciliation in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan wanted the US to focus on political solution instead of pursing military options. “We want the US to come to talks, either direct with the Taliban or through any other mechanism in Afghanistan. We also want the Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US to collectively make efforts to bring the Taliban to the table and that there should be no time frame,” he said. He said that China and Russia as well as Iran had also agreed with Pakistan’s stance that there was no military solution to the Afghan problem. When asked about the Russian regional initiative for peace in Afghanistan, he said” “Pakistan believes that the Kabul process had scuttled the Russian diplomatic initiative. However, the Russians have shown patience. Russians do not want duplication and want to give time to the Kabul Process.” Published in Daily Times, September 11th 2017.