ISLAMABAD: A US-appointed Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation arrived in Islamabad on Thursday in order to resolve a decades-old conflict plaguing Kabul, the US Embassy in Islamabad said on Thursday.
Zalmay Khalilzad is in Islamabad to push forward Washington-backed peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and end a war that is stretching into its 18th year.
On Thursday, during a weekly news briefing, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal confirmed that Khalilzad and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would be meeting later on Thursday to discuss the Afghan peace process.
He added that Pakistan is extending every possible support for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict. Ahead of Khalilzad’s visit, senior US official Lisa Curtis arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for talks on how to kickstart the stalled Afghan peace process. No details of her meetings were available from Pakistani or US officials but it is believed that she discussed the prospects of bringing the Taliban to the table for talks, among other bilateral issues.
There has been a flurry of meetings between the US and the Afghan Taliban in recent months to find a negotiated settlement between the insurgents and the Kabul government. So far, the Taliban have refused to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government, which is a major impediment to the success of the peace initiative.
Ambassador Khalilzad was previously scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Tuesday night but a diplomatic source said his schedule had been “fluid” all week.
On Tuesday, the special envoy landed in Kabul and held meeting with Afghan officials, saying in a tweet on Wednesday morning that President Ashraf Ghani had hosted a dinner for his team: “A good session. We discussed the peace process & all agree that progress depends on Afghans sitting with each other, negotiating a future for all Afghan people.”
The US Department of State announced last week that Khalilzad would visit India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from Jan 8 -21 to meet with senior government officials in each country to “facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement.”
“The pros and cons of the Afghan peace process will be discussed with the US envoy,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal told Arab News on Tuesday, declining to share specific details about Khalilzad’s agenda and engagements in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the special envoy is also expected to meet top civilian and military leaders.