Hagel visits Pakistan today to push for Afghan peace
Hagel will meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad in the first visit by a US defense secretary to Pakistan in nearly four years.
“Secretary Hagel met with Prime Minister Sharif on his visit to Washington earlier this year and looks forward to continuing candid and productive conversations,” Pentagon's Carl Woog told reporters on Sunday.
“Secretary Hagel also looks forward to discussing with Prime Minister Sharif and other senior Pakistani officials the United States and Pakistan's common interest in a stable Afghanistan.”
The US military has suspended shipments of equipment out of Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing, a key transit point to withdraw NATO military hardware from Afghanistan.
Pakistan is seen as crucial to peace in neighbouring Afghanistan as it was a key backer of the hardline 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul and is believed to shelter some of the movement's leaders.
In Kabul, Hagel met with his Afghan counterpart Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, but he did not meet with Karzai, who is holding up an agreement to keep US troops in the country after 2014.
“I never received an invitation to meet with him,” Hagel told reporters. “I didn’t expect a meeting with him.”
The defense secretary suggested the topic had been exhausted, noting that National Security Adviser Susan E Rice recently traveled to Kabul to meet with Karzai.
“I say again, this trip to Afghanistan was planned weeks ago. And it was planned for the sole purpose of working with our troops, reaching out to our troops, thanking our troops, wishing them happy holidays, acknowledging the work they did. So that’s No. 1.”
“I don’t think pressure coming from the United States or more pressure is going to be helpful in persuading President Karzai to sign a bilateral security agreement,” he added.
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