Afghan Taliban delegation meets with Pakistani officials

Afghan Taliban delegation meets with Pakistani officials
Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 18 January 2018

Afghan Taliban delegation meets with Pakistani officials

Afghan Taliban delegation meets with Pakistani officials

ISLAMABAD: Senior Afghan Taliban representatives held talks with Pakistani officials on prospects for the group’s participation in the peace process, two Taliban officials told Arab News.

The visit to Pakistan of the five-member delegation was approved by Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

It took place amid growing tensions between Washington and Islamabad as the former presses the latter to take action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the visit when asked by Arab News, but an Afghan diplomat told the newspaper: “I’m aware they (the Taliban) are here (in Pakistan).”

The Taliban representatives were in Pakistan just days ahead of a visit by acting US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.

She “emphasized that the US South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together for the establishment of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan,” said the US Embassy in Islamabad.

Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire denied any link between Wells’ visit and that of the Taliban envoys.

“Wells said (during her visit) that we’ve encouraged the Taliban to have direct talks with the government of Afghanistan,” Snelsire told Arab News.

The US Embassy on Tuesday said Wells “urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups within its territory.”

Already tense US-Pakistan relations further deteriorated after President Donald Trump’s tweet on Jan. 1 accusing Islamabad of “lies & deceit,” and of giving “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment about the delegation in Pakistan, but said there is no change in his group’s policy on negotiating with the Afghan government.

“Kabul is in the Americans’ hands. Talks with the puppets won’t yield results, nor can a solution be expected while invaders control our airspace and land in Afghanistan,” he told Arab News. “The real party involved with us in the war is the US, not Kabul.”