Senior US official expected to travel to Tajikistan next week

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Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells will travel to Tajikistan from January 6-7, according to the U.S. Department of State.

In Dushanbe, she will meet with senior Tajik government officials to discuss mutual interest in deepening regional security cooperation, expanding economic and energy connectivity, and growing people-to-people ties.

Radio Liberty says the planned visit comes more than a month after a State Department official said the United States had "intensified" its bilateral diplomatic engagements with the five Central Asian nations in 2019.

The increase in U.S. diplomatic contacts comes as China's economic and political influence in Central Asia grows and it seeks to strong-arm those nations to return asylum seekers from Xinjiang, a major concern for the administration of President Donald Trump, according to RFE/RL.

The greater interest in the region reportedly also comes as the United States seeks to exit its 18-year war in Afghanistan, which borders several Central Asian countries.

Alice G. Wells, a career Foreign Service Officer, assumed her duties as Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia on June 26, 2017. She previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; a senior adviser in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau in the Department of State, as Special Assistant to the President for Russia and Central Asia in the White House (2012-2013); Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Clinton (2011-2012); and Executive Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns (2009-2011).

From 2006 to 2009, Ambassador Wells served as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at U.S. Embassy Moscow, and previously worked as Director of Maghreb Affairs and as Acting Director of Egypt and North African Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Ambassador Wells also served as a political officer at U.S. Embassy New Delhi, U.S. Embassy Islamabad and U.S. Embassy Riyadh.

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, headed by Assistant Secretary Alice G. Wells, deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. relations with the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Source: Asia Plus