In an unusual turn of events, the United States has not pushed Pakistan to “do more” for peace in Afghanistan.
Instead, on Thursday, it sought Islamabad’s support to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table to end the decades-old conflict.
“All countries in the region will benefit from peace in Afghanistan,” the US embassy said on Thursday, quoting the US-appointed special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
It added that Khalilzad had reiterated the sentiment during his visit to Islamabad from December 4-6.
Commenting on Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad, Pakistan military’s spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday that “war has not been successful in Afghanistan as it has been in Pakistan” to eliminate terrorism.
He stressed, that “political reconciliation must succeed” to bring peace in Afghanistan.
“We wish United States leaves Afghanistan as a friend to the region [and] not as a failure”, Ghafoor, the Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, pointing to a catastrophic fallout that could follow and impact the country’s socio-economic sector — a fate Afghanistan has endured after the Russian invasion.
The US special envoy, along with his delegation, held meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to discuss the way forward for the Afghan peace strategy.
“In his meetings, Ambassador Khalilzad stressed the United States’ commitment to facilitating a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.
The US hoped the political settlement in the war-ravaged country will ensure that “Afghanistan never again serve as a platform for international terrorism and ends the 40-years-long war in the country.”
Khalilzad’s visit came a day after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to PM Khan seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war.”
PM Khan on Thursday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue its positive role in seeking a political settlement in Afghanistan to bring peace and stability in the region.
“We have been saying for the last 15 years that there is political solution of Afghan conflict, not the military…and a delegation led by Zalmay Khalilzad has accepted it,” the premier said while addressing a federal cabinet meeting here.
“Pakistan is playing its role for peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Earlier, while addressing a weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson, Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that Pakistan was ready to extend its unconditional support to the US for peace in Afghanistan.
“All stakeholders agree on resolution of Afghan conflict through negotiations,” he said, adding that “peaceful solution of the conflict was discussed in detail with the US delegation led by Khalilzad.”
To a question about what Pakistan’s stand was regarding the suspension of a coalition fund by the US in January, the spokesperson said: “Talks with the US have resumed, so let’s see.”
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 war.
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.
In a bid to end the frosty hiatus in diplomatic relations, 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 with assistance from Pakistan.
Political and security analysts, however, view the change in US’ attitude toward Pakistan as a genuine move on part of Washington to resolve the Afghan conflict.
“The US is changing its tactics to seek meaningful cooperation from Pakistan as they think Pakistan can play a critical role for peace in Afghanistan,” General (retd.) Talat Masood, a security analyst, told Arab News.
“It is definite now that they (the US) can’t win (in Afghanistan). Taliban are gaining ground, casualties are reaching a point that they can’t sustain them anymore,” he said, adding that “Pakistan has quite a considerable influence over the Afghan Taliban … this is not possible that Taliban can survive with Pakistan also opposing them.”
Professor Tahir Malik, an international affairs analyst, saidthat Pakistan was always willing to play its role for peace in Afghanistan, provided “the US agrees to curtail the role of India in Kabul.”
“Pakistan wants to see a favorable government in Kabul, a government which doesn’t become compliant to India,” he told Arab News.
“If Washington addresses some genuine concerns of Islamabad, both can make a significant headway in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table,” he said.