Ashraf Ghani’s aide arrives in run-up to Doha talks

Pakistan seeks early completion of Afghan review by US


Kamran Yousaf February 25, 2021
Members of the Taliban delegation attend the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha on September 12, 2020. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

As representatives of the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government gear up for the resumption of talks in Doha this week, President Ashraf Ghani’s point man for peace efforts arrived in the federal capital on Wednesday as part of hectic diplomatic efforts to prevent the fragile process from collapsing.

The visit of Umar Daudzai, Afghan President's special envoy, came on the heels of earlier trips by US Centcom chief, Russian President’s top aide for Afghanistan and Qatari foreign ministry’s special envoy.

On the first day of his visit, Daudzai held over three hours-long talks with Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan. According to official sources, the talks covered the peace efforts as well as other bilateral issues.

The Afghan president’s top aide is also scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials on Thursday (Today).

The flurry of visits by senior officials from key Afghan stakeholders is aimed at avoiding collapse of the fragile peace process.

The Afghan peace process’s fate hangs in the balance since the new US government took charge, as President Joe Biden’s administration is currently undertaking a review of the deal the Trump administration had signed with the Afghan Taliban a year ago.

The February 29, 2020, deal signed in Doha envisaged a roadmap for the US troop pull-out from Afghanistan by May 1 this year in return for the Taliban agreeing not to allow the Afghan soil to be used again by terrorist groups.

The US since Biden came to power has been accusing the Taliban of not living up to the promise, in addition to airing its concerned over increased violence in the war-torn country.

Last week, Nato defence ministers in their two-day virtual meeting could not reach a decision whether to withdraw troops this summer from Afghanistan.

The Nato secretary general made it clear that the US and the international forces’ departure from Afghanistan hinged on the Taliban fulfilling the conditions such as cutting ties with terrorist groups as well as reducing violence that could lead to a comprehensive ceasefire.

The Taliban; however, rejected the allegations and insisted that they were fully implementing the deal. They warned the US and other foreign forces of dire consequences if they extended their stay beyond May 1.

But despite the uncertainty, a senior Pakistani official, who was part of the peace efforts, told The Express Tribune that the resumption of intra-Afghan talks this week in Doha was a positive development.

The official, while requesting anonymity, said although the Biden administration announced a review of the peace deal, in reality the US had “little options” to bring any major changes.

Pakistan, the official added, wanted the US to complete the review at the earliest in order to put at rest all the uncertainty.

Islamabad has facilitated and brokered the US-Taliban deal as well as intra-Afghan talks.

Pakistan will continue to have a major role in the Afghan endgame as is reflected in the ongoing high-level visits by officials from countries closely involved in the peace efforts.

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