WASHINGTON: US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday he had discussed with Pakistani civilian and military officials what the US expects them to do to advance the Afghan peace process.
Mr Khalilzad visited Islamabad on Sunday at the beginning of his 16-day multinational trip that will also take him to Qatar for another round of peace negotiations with the Taliban.
“Productive 24 hours in Islamabad. Briefed Pakistani leaders on progress we’ve made in the last month,” the US envoy tweeted on Monday.
“Discussed what Pakistan can do to help advance the Afghan Peace Process. Pakistani cooperation on Afghanistan peace serves regional interests and builds stronger US-Pak relations,” he added.
Mr Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat, has held six rounds of direct talks with Taliban envoys in Doha since the peace process began last fall.
But The New York Times reported on Sunday that the “talks between the Taliban and the United States seem stuck”. The report acknowledged that the two sides “have made some progress towards an agreement” on the withdrawal of American troops in return for security guarantees from the Taliban, but “they have struggled to reach the next stage of discussing Afghanistan’s political future”.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say that now the Trump administration wants Pakistan to play a “greater role” in persuading the Taliban to conclude a peace deal.
Earlier this year, Mr Khalilzad acknowledged that Pakistan helped the US in bringing Taliban delegates to Doha. In one of his tweets, he had said Pakistan released Taliban leader Mullah Baradar on his request so that he could participate in the peace talks. Mullah Baradar now heads the Taliban political outpost in Doha.
While the Taliban have met Afghan opposition leaders and political parties, they refuse to negotiate directly with the country’s government, which they have called illegitimate.
But Taliban officials did participate in a meeting in Moscow last week which Kabul’s envoy in the Russian capital also attended, as did a delegation from Afghanistan.
In Washington, Laurel Miller, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, warned the Trump administration against concluding a deal without a political reconciliation between Kabul and the insurgents.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2019