RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa speaks to US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad who called on him at the General Headquarters on Monday.
RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa speaks to US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad who called on him at the General Headquarters on Monday.

ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday said he was cautiously optimistic about the progress in talks with the Taliban.

The United States and Taliban have after prolonged negotiations agreed on a draft agreement, which they are expected to sign on Feb 29 in Doha. However, the signing of the agreement is contingent upon successful implementation of a seven-day period of reduced violence starting from Feb 22.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Refugee Conference, Ambassador Khalilzad said the US-Taliban agreement would open the door for Afghans to sit across the table and negotiate. This, he noted, was a complicated issue and would require “compromises and accommodation” for each other. He said it was a “unique opportunity” that would require a “real strategy and a real plan” to deliver.

The envoy said it was wrong to think that the US wanted to run away from the region, because in that case he did not need to painstakingly negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. “We did not need anyone’s permission to withdraw,” he maintained. He said the US would like to leave a “good legacy behind”.

Ambassador Khalilzad called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and briefed him on latest developments in the context of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful, stable and democratic Afghanistan, PM Khan said Islamabad welcomed the recent progress in peace talks between the US and Taliban.

Ambassador Khalilzad also called on Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters. “During the meeting matters of mutual interest including overall regional security situation and ongoing Afghan reconciliation process were discussed,” the ISPR said.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2020