ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it was ready to extend all possible help to the United States to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and restore peace in conflict-ridden Afghanistan.
“The United States has finally agreed to initiate a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban which is a positive move,” Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arab News.
This comes at a time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the US-appointed special envoy tasked with finding a solution to end the 17-year-old Afghan war, arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday to hold meetings with the country's political and military leadership.
Khalilzad met with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office on Tuesday where the two sides discussed an ambit of mutual cooperation to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan. “Pakistan has been pressing the US for the last 10 years to settle the Afghan conflict through dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban,” Dr Faisal said.
“The important thing at this stage is that the US is finally engaging the Afghan Taliban in dialogue,” he said, adding that “the strategies and all other things can be worked out mutually”.
Khalilzad’s visit comes a day after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”.
Khalilzad will also travel to Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar in a renewed effort to find a peaceful end to the Afghan war.
“He will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to decide their nation’s fate,” the US State Department said in a statement.
Washington has been pushing Islamabad for long to play its role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table for a peaceful end to the decades-old conflict. The relations of both the allies, however, soured when President Trump accused Pakistan of providing a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt” when he posted a series of tweets on January 1.
To ease the tensions and convince Pakistan to play its role in the Afghan peace process, Khalilzad held a series of meetings with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad in October. The move was part of Washington’s renewed push to arrive at a political solution to the Afghan conflict.
Rahimullah Yousufzai, a security analyst and expert on Afghan affairs, said that Pakistan alone cannot help the US in achieving peace for Afghanistan as its influence over the Taliban has reduced with the passage of time. “There is a need to adopt a more regional approach to convince the Taliban to enter negotiations with the Afghan government,” he told Arab News.
“China and Iran should also be involved in the negotiations process for a positive result,” he added.
Yousufzai said that no imminent solution of the Afghan conflict was on the cards but if both Pakistan and the US succeed in initiating a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban “this will at least help reduce frequency of bomb blasts and other terror attacks in the region”.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced forming a 12-member team which would engage with the Taliban. However, he has yet to receive a positive response from the militants.
Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and an analyst, said that hurdles in the way of a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban can be removed only if “both Pakistan and the US move ahead with a joint strategy”.
“It is heartening to see that the relations of Islamabad and Washington are warming up after years, and hopefully this will help restore peace in Afghanistan,” he told Arab News.