Pakistan’s help sought to bring Taliban to talks


Shamim Mehmood


United States diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad — Washington’s newly-named point man tasked with finding a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.

He arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday to seek the help of the new PTI-led government in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad from neighbouring Afghanistan where he met with President Ashraf Ghani.

The appointment last month of Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, highlighted the US administration’s fresh efforts to convince Taliban leaders to participate in the Afghan peace process, despite a surge in the group’s attacks.

Delegation level talks between Pakistan and the US on Afghan reconciliation process were held at the foreign office. The Pakistani side was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and the US side by Khalilzad.

The focus of talks was security, defence, and diplomatic officials from both countries attended, foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on social network Twitter.

Pakistan’s cooperation in the peace process is believed to be the key to its success.

Khalilzad will be in Afghanistan and Pakistan until Oct. 14.

Foreign minister Qureshi, during his meeting, said Pakistan welcomes the United States efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He further said Islamabad will keep playing its role in this regard. Qureshi also discussed his recent visit to Kabul.

Qureshi said the upcoming general elections fixed for Oct. 20 in Afghanistan were also discussed.

Direct talks with the US have been a persistent demand of the Taliban, who accuse Ghani’s government of being America’s “puppets”.

Khalilzad is set to travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar after leaving Islamabad as part of a 10-day trip in a bid to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The Afghan-born former ambassador’s knowledge of the country’s main languages, culture and politics could help him engage with all stakeholders in the peace process, besides his experience advising or working for four US administrations.

Afghan Taliban have condemned Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections later this month and threatened more attacks on Afghan security forces.

In a statement on Monday, which was also released in English, the Taliban also urged Afghan candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot lists.

They denounced the polls as an America-designed ploy to further US interests in Afghanistan and warned Afghan security forces that they would be targeted.

The statement also repeated the long-standing Taliban demand for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.