The special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan on Friday held meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership seeking Islamabad’s crucial help to strike a peace deal with the warring Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, visiting Islamabad for the record ninth time in a year, separately met the powerful army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi just hours after Washington announced a pause in already fragile peace talks following a brazen Taliban attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan earlier this week.
Khalilzad, along with Paul Jones, U.S. ambassador in Pakistan, met Bajwa at army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and shared outcomes following the 8th round of U.S. Taliban peace talks in Doha and his recent engagements in Kabul.
The process, however, is still awaiting a breakthrough, as the Taliban have turned down repeated U.S. requests for inclusion of the Kabul government in the talks
“Regional security situation with particular reference to ongoing Afghanistan reconciliation process was discussed,” army spokesperson Major Gen. Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet without offering any further details. Qureshi, for his part, reiterated his country would continue to support a smooth progress and successful outcome of peace efforts aimed at ending the lingering war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan, Qureshi said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement, has always believed that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. Hoping for revival of the stalled peace talks, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to remain engaged with the U.S. and other stakeholders in facilitating the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, paving the way for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The process, however, is still awaiting a breakthrough, as the Taliban have turned down repeated U.S. requests for inclusion of the Kabul government in the talks.
Pakistan also facilitated the landmark first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but that process broke down after the Taliban announced the death of their long-time leader Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.
Pakistan & the US were also involved in negotiations for a prisoner swap. PM Khan has tweeted that he hopes the outcome will deliver a 'boost in confidence' to all parties, including the Afghan govt and Taliban. The hope is it'll pave the way for fresh peace talks. https://t.co/hcazKH6d2H
— Siobhan Heanue (@siobhanheanue) November 19, 2019
Taliban have opened new battlefronts across the war-torn nation in recent years as Afghan security forces — suffering casualties and desertions — struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.
Earlier in the day, Khalilzad, in a series of tweets, stressed the Taliban “must show they are willing & able to respond to Afghan desire for peace.” “When I met the Talibs today, I expressed outrage about yesterday’s attack on Bagram, which recklessly killed two and wounded dozens of civilians,” Khalilzad said.
The U.S. negotiating team is taking a “brief pause for them [the Taliban] to consult their leadership on this essential topic,” he added. However, Suhail Shaheen, Taliban’s Qatar office spokesman, said on Twitter the pause was agreed upon in a meeting between the two sides in “cordial and positive atmosphere.”
At least five people were killed and 70 others, mostly civilians, were injured in Afghanistan on Wednesday in an early morning attack on Bagram airbase. Hours after the attack, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk.