ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States reiterated on Sunday their commitment to take the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process forward through meaningful dialogue and by addressing concerns of all major stakeholders, including the Taliban.

The two sides said they trusted each other and were deeply concerned about what they called unpredictable nature of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who in the past had harmed peace talks by unnecessarily hitting out either at the US or Pakistan.

A high-powered US delegation comprising David Pearce, acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; retired Lt Gen Douglas Lute, Special Assistant to the President on Afghanistan and Pakistan; Dr Peter Lavoy, Principal Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs and Richard Olson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, had a detailed meeting with the Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and other military officials. Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani also attended the meeting.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said in a terse press release: “The two sides discussed matters of mutual interest with particular focus on Afghanistan reconciliation process.”

A military official told Dawn that both sides were of the opinion that every effort would be made to take the Taliban leadership on board because without their active involvement the peace talks could not succeed.

“From day one, we have been telling the Americans that if at all they are interested in some sort of reconciliation process within Afghanistan, it’s simply out of question without taking the Taliban on board. Now they have not only accepted this viewpoint but also endorsed Pakistan’s efforts in this regard,” the military official said. Sunday’s meeting had further built the momentum, he added.

Now with the US government having announced the plan to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year, they could not afford any major derailment of the reconciliation process and this was the main item on the agenda of the meeting, he said.

The role of President Karzai has become a matter of a common concern of the two sides because of his tendency to frequently go off at a tangent.

In January last year, Mr Karzai complained that the US government was sidelining him in negotiations with the Taliban, saying it was essential that the Afghan government played a lead role in any peace talks.

Answering a question, the military official said the mutual distrust between the Karzai government and Pakistan was not a new thing and would take some time before it transformed into a truly neighbourly relationship. “Our effort at the moment is to give an honest push to the ongoing reconciliation process.”

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