Amid escalating tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a series of high-profile US officials are set to visit Pakistan over the next week. The key focus of the visit will be on the challenges faced by Afghan refugees residing in the country, following Pakistan's decision to have Afghans leave the country.
Visiting U.S. Officials
In the first of the series of visits, Julieta Valls Noyes, the US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, will reach Islamabad today and stay until Thursday. Following her visit, US Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, will begin his trip to Islamabad. Elizabeth Horst, who is responsible for Pakistan as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, is scheduled to arrive on December 9. The visits come in the wake of Pakistan's decision to expel all illegal Afghans, a move that has strained ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During the visits, the American officials will engage in discussions with senior government officials and international organization partners. They are expected to deliberate shared efforts to protect vulnerable individuals and accelerate the safe and efficient relocation and resettlement of Afghan refugees, who are currently in the US immigration pipeline. The dialogue will not be limited to the refugee situation, but will also encompass the wider situation in Afghanistan, including the rising tensions with the Afghan Taliban.
Implications of the Visits
Abdul Sadiq Hamidzai, a political analyst, suggests that while expectations from Pakistan should be moderate, there is still hope for positive outcomes. Notably, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has declared that the meeting between officials of the two countries bears no connection with the interim government. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate, has emphasized that Pakistan is forcing Afghans out of the country in violation of international norms. He also mentioned that the issue of refugees is significant to them, and they are prepared to provide good facilities to the returning refugees.
Pakistan's decision to repatriate 1.7 million Afghan refugees has met with reactions from international organizations, refugee support foundations, and human rights organizations, who have urged the Pakistani government not to forcibly repatriate Afghan refugees. In response, the US is working with Pakistan to find a workable solution to avoid such Afghans being deported.