US welcomes assurance to help reduce violence in Afghanistan

Updated December 15, 2019

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Statement says Khalilzad and Pakistani leaders and officials talked about a successful conclusion of intra-Afghan talks. — PID/File
Statement says Khalilzad and Pakistani leaders and officials talked about a successful conclusion of intra-Afghan talks. — PID/File

WASHINGTON: The United States welcomes Pakistan’s offer to help facilitate a reduction of violence in Afghanistan and to secure a ceasefire in the war-ravaged country, says US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr Khalilzad visited Islamabad on Friday and “discussed the current status of US-Taliban talks” with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said an official US statement issued after the visit.

In a separate tweet on Friday evening, Mr Khalilzad said he “updated” the Pakistani leaders and other officials “on the status of talks and welcomed Pakistan’s help to facilitate a reduction of violence and ceasefire in Afghanistan, so we can pivot to intra-Afghan negotiations”.

As special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Mr Khalilzad leads the US team in the talks with the Taliban and engages with other states involved in the peace process.

Statement says Khalilzad and Pakistani leaders and officials also talked about a successful conclusion of intra-Afghan talks

The US envoy visited Islamabad a day after the United States “paused” the resurrected peace talks with Taliban in Doha over a deadly attack on Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Army said Gen Bajwa and Mr Khalilzad discussed the “regional security situation with particular reference to [the] ongoing Afghan reconciliation process”.

The official US statement said Ambas­sador Khalilzad and Pakistani officials also talked about “a successful conclusion of intra-Afghan negotiations as well as regional support for these goals”.

The US envoy “also underscored the economic and security benefits peace can bring to the region”, the statement added.

The ongoing “pause” is the latest interruption in the US-Taliban negotiations. The dialogue had resumed last Saturday after remaining suspended for almost three months.

President Donald Trump had declared the process dead and ended all contacts with Taliban in September when an American soldier was killed in an attack claimed by the insurgent group.

Apparently, the United States believes that Pakistan has enough influence on the Taliban to persuade them to stop attacking US and Afghan positions in Afghanistan for at least as long as the peace talks continue.

The Americans also believe that Pakistan can convince the Taliban to conclude a peace agreement with the United States and the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul. They want Pakistan to use this influence to help end the war in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2019