WASHINGTON: Pakistan assured the United States on Tuesday that it would continue supporting the Afghan peace process.
At a Monday afternoon news briefing, the US State Department once again urged Afghanistan’s neighbours to support the process, reminding them that continued chaos in Afghanistan would be particularly harmful for them.
Pakistan’s US Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan conveyed this assurance during a meeting with US lawmakers in Washington. He also underlined Islamabad’s desire to “build a broad-based and stand-alone relationship with the US,” said a statement issued by his office.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Kabul on Monday and, during a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, offered Pakistan’s support for political negotiations with the Taliban. Gen Bajwa was accompanied in the meeting by British Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter.
US warns continued chaos in Afghanistan will be harmful for its neighbours
The United Kingdom has about 750 troops among the Nato contingent of 7,000 in Afghanistan.
Recent media reports suggest that Islamabad has intensified its efforts to convince the Taliban to commit to a ceasefire and continue their dialogue with the Afghan government.
At the State Department news briefing, spokesperson Ned Price urged the Taliban and the Afghan government to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to prevent the Islamic State militant group from further aggravating an already tense situation in the war-ravaged country.
“We are still looking into what or who is responsible, but I would note that ISIS has been responsible for similar attacks on Shia communities in Kabul in the past,” he said.
Saturday’s school attack in the Afghan capital that killed at least 80 people — most of them girl students — has earned strong condemnation from across the globe.
UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir called the blast “an abhorrent and cowardly attack”, while UN Secretary General António Guterres emphasised that “those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable.”
But the US went beyond a formal condemnation by showing interest in the Taliban’s denial of involvement and by urging them to work with the Afghan government to bring peace to a country that has been involved in one war after another for almost half a century.
“We note the Taliban have denied involvement in the attack, and we welcome their announcement of a three-day ceasefire over the upcoming Eid holiday,” Ned Price said. “We call on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to ensure the Afghan people enjoy a future free of terrorism and of senseless violence.”
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Sunday that the group was not involved in the attack and “condemns this cruel and senseless act of violence”.
On Monday, Taliban also announced a three-day Eid ceasefire, which would come into effect later this week, a day before Ramazan officially ends.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021