KABUL: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit Pakistan on Monday, officials said, with Afghanistan's stalled peace process high on the agenda as well as the strained relations between Washington and Islamabad.
Hagel, who has been in Afghanistan since Saturday, will meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad in the first visit by a US defense secretary to Pakistan in nearly four years.
Ties between the two countries have been troubled over US drone strikes targeting suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal belt.
"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."
Activists opposed to the drone strikes have been forcibly searching trucks in northwest Pakistan since late November to try to disrupt NATO supply routes to 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.