ISLAMABAD: US State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad thanked Pakistan for its efforts to facilitate the latest round of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.
In his fifth visit to the region, Khalilzad arrived at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Friday for a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. His delegation included officials from the US State Department and the National Security Council.
The US envoy is on a mission to expedite the Afghan peace process as the war in the war-torn country enters its 19th year. He has held a series of meetings with the Pakistani leadership as part of Washington’s renewed push to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.
During the meeting, Qureshi reaffirmed Islamabad’s stance to facilitate the peace process and stressed that bringing peace in the region was a shared responsibility.
Khalil thanked Pakistan for brokering the recently-held talks between the US and Afghan Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). “We respect Islamabad’s efforts to push for the Afghan peace process,” he said.
The three-day parleys were attended by representatives of the Afghan Taliban, the US as well as officials from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
It was the first time that the Taliban’s military and political leaders attended a negotiation – something that has renewed hopes of a possible peace deal. Previously, the Taliban were only represented by their political office in Qatar.
The presence of the Taliban leaders like Mullah Amir Mutaqi, Qari Yahya, Mullah Mohibullah Hamas and Mullah Abbas Akhund at the UAE talks suggests seriousness of the insurgent group towards the latest round of discussions facilitated by Pakistan.
The latest push for a peace came after President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Pakistan’s help for the negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict.
In the letter, the United States had sought PM Imran’s full support to advance Afghan peace process. The correspondence came after Trump accused Pakistan of “doing nothing” despite receiving “billions of dollars” in aid.
The premier had hit back to the allegations by advising Washington to assess its efficiency in the war on terror instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failure.
Although both the US and Pakistan now have a commonality of views on seeking a political solution to the Afghan problem, the trust deficit between the two is the real stumbling block. Relations between the two countries are tense despite recent efforts to reset the troubled ties.
At the heart of their stalemate is the US insistence on Pakistan to do more to bring the Afghan Taliban on to the negotiating table. Washington still believes that Islamabad holds considerable sway over the insurgent group.