ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban will visit Pakistan in the “coming weeks” if a formal invitation is extended, it said on Wednesday, after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would meet Taliban leaders to persuade them to hold negotiations with the government in Kabul.
During an appearance at the US Institute of Peace on Tuesday, Khan said: “I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government.”
The US and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal expected to center on a US pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to use its forces to interfere in US affairs. The group has refused so far to hold direct talks with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, which it considers a “puppet” regime.
Earlier this month, three Afghan government officials joined a delegation of over 50 people at an intra-Afghan conference in Doha, also attended by Taliban political envoys to discuss the future of the war-ravaged country.
The Taliban insisted that the officials were only present in a personal capacity, and not as representatives of Ghani.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday a visit to Pakistan could take place in the coming weeks.
“We travel to other countries in the world and hold meetings,” he told Arab News via telephone from Doha.
“Pakistan is a neighboring Muslim country. Members of the political office of the Islamic Emirate will visit Pakistan if a formal invitation is extended to us. We will discuss the issue of refugees and other related issues.”
There are now reports that Khan has discussed his plan to receive Taliban leaders in Pakistan with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has given his go ahead, despite requesting Islamabad not meet with the group several months ago.
Taliban and US representatives are scheduled to resume talks in the coming days to remove differences on a timeframe for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Even as talks continue, the Taliban and Afghan forces have continued fighting. Seven civilians were accidentally killed by the regime in an attack on a militant position south of the capital on Monday.