On 19 December, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Washington to continue discussions with the US to improve bilateral relations and promote cooperation. Bhutto’s four-day visit to the US culminated in Washington after he expressed the desire to further relations with the US, where he said that the “historical relationship” between the two countries has worked in both their favour and that they have “achieved great things.” He said that the maintenance of ties is imperative and that it is “absolutely possible” for Pakistan to engage with China and the US. Bhutto stressed Pakistan’s oil deals with Russia on a discounted rate and said that they are not receiving any “discounted energy,” but are facing an “extremely difficult economic situation,” with rising inflation and petrol prices.
Responding to Bhutto’s claims, diplomatic officials in Washington said that Pakistan is “still far” from concluding an oil deal with Russia and that the issue revealed the “difficulties” that Pakistan faces in maintaining its relations with China and the US, while also widening its relations with Russia. Officials also said that talks between the two countries could suffer challenges, with Bhutto exchanging words with Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on his claims of Pakistan being the “perpetrator of terrorism.”
US ‘concerned’ about TTP’s continued ‘threats’ to Pakistan’s security
On 17 December, Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Michael E Kurilla said that the US is “concerned” about the “threats” the TTP poses to Pakistan’s security situation and that he “values” US-Pakistan bilateral relations and that he invites opportunities to widen their cooperation on the lines of mutual interest, including counterterrorism and border security. This comes as the CENTCOM chief visited Pakistan and held talks with the present COAS Gen Asim Munir and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Sahir Mirza and said that the visit entailed a “clear vision” of the COAS to maintain the security of Pakistan and that their relationship is “important” to begin a strong “foundation” of trust and respect.
Gen Kurilla said that regular communications with the Pakistani leadership and Gen Munir included providing “additional” cooperation on counterterrorism and enhancing border security and that the TTP’s continued attacks were discussed “in detail” for Pakistan to address the threat. Further, he said that Pakistan had “much to gain” from a “peaceful and stable Afghanistan” and that these are matters that need to be dealt with in a more efficient manner. (Anwar Iqbal, “FM Bilawal arrives in US capital today for talks,” Dawn, 19 December 2022, “US concerned at TTP threat to Pakistan’s security: US CENTCOM chief,” The Express Tribune, 17 December 2022)