KARACHI: The US has asked Pakistan to use its influence to press the warring Taliban for the "immediate" start of intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at ending Washington's longest war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, visited the region this week to meet Taliban negotiators, and officials in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to seek their support for speeding up the intra-Afghan negotiations -- a key component of a historic peace deal struck between Washington and the Taliban in February.
In Islamabad, Khalilzad met with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday seeking his support in pressing the Taliban for a reduction in violence, the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations, according to a statement from the US Embassy in Islamabad on Saturday.
"Ambassador Khalilzad discussed [with Gen Qamar] ongoing efforts by the United States to advance the Afghan peace process and sought Pakistan's support in pressing for a reduction in violence, [and] the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations,", the statement said.
Khalilzad meets Gen Qamar amid deadlock in Afghan peace process
The US-Taliban peace deal included release of some 5,000 militia inmates in exchange for up to 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel being held by the insurgent group.
So far, the Kabul and the Taliban have released 933 and 155 prisoners, respectively.
In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, paving the way for the Doha peace deal between the two sides.
Khalilzad also sought Islamabad's assistance in helping obtain the freedom of an American national Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran turned contractor, who was reportedly abducted by powerful Haqqani network in Afghanistan late January.
The network or any other militant group, however, has not claimed the responsibility.
Khalilzad had also raised the issue in his meeting with Qatar-based Taliban leaders, who denied holding the missing US contractor.
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