US Seeks Pakistan Help For Intra-Afghan Dialogue

“The more broad-based agreement intra-Afghanistan dialogue the better it is”: Khan Hasham Bin Saddiq, President of Islamabad-based IPRI think tank.

DESPARDES — The US has asked Pakistan to use its influence to press the warring Taliban for the “immediate” start of intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at ending Washington’s 19-year (longest) war in neighboring Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, visited the region this week to meet Taliban negotiators, and officials in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to seek their support for speeding up the intra-Afghan negotiations — a key component of a historic peace deal struck between Washington and the Taliban in February.

In Islamabad, Khalilzad met with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday seeking his support in pressing the Taliban for a reduction in violence, the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations, according to a statement from the US Embassy in Islamabad on Saturday.

“Ambassador Khalilzad discussed [with Gen Qamar] ongoing efforts by the United States to advance the Afghan peace process and sought Pakistan’s support in pressing for a reduction in violence, [and] the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations,”, the statement said.

This was Khalilzad’s second visit in less than a month.

Speaking with DesPardes, the head of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) said, “yes that is what they (USA) are after but they are backing India too for a part in the future”.

In his opinion, Pakistan should remain neutral and not take sides. Pakistan has been actively supportive of the US-Taliban talks that led to the historic agreement in February.

“The more broad-based agreement intra-Afghanistan dialogue the better it is”, said Khan Hasham Bin Saddiq, the President of IPRI. “We should facilitate peace in Afghanistan”.

In December 2018, Islamabad arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, paving the way for the Doha peace deal between the two sides.

Prisoners swap and intra-Afghan dialogue are on the post-deal agenda which are work still in progress.

So far, the Kabul and the Taliban have released 933 and 155 prisoners, respectively. The peace deal included release of some 5,000 militia inmates in exchange for up to 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel being held by the insurgent group.

Khalilzad also sought Islamabad’s assistance in helping obtain the freedom of an American national Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran turned contractor, who was reportedly abducted by powerful Haqqani network in Afghanistan late January.

The network or any other militant group, however, has not claimed the responsibility.

The US chief diplomat for Afghan endgame had also raised the issue in his meeting with Qatar-based Taliban leaders, who denied holding the missing US contractor.

With input from Anadolu News Agency