‘Substantial progress’ made in Afghan talks, US envoy tells Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): The chief US negotiator on Afghan reconciliation has informed Pakistan that a “substantial progress” has been made during recent talks with the Taliban as he discussed “additional steps” Pakistan may take to further expedite the process.

The statement of Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative on Afghan Reconciliation, came after he wrapped up his trip to Islamabad on Monday, where held talks with senior Foreign Office officials and also met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Islamabad said Khalilzad held discussions with Pakistani leadership on developments in the Afghan peace process. “Ambassador Khalilzad met Prime Minister Imran Khan, MFA [ministry of foreign affairs] Additional Secretary Aftab Khokher and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa,” the statement added.

Khalilzad briefed Pakistani officials on the “substantial progress” made in talks over the last month and planned next steps. He noted that the United States continues to be encouraged by the role Pakistan has played to advance the peace process and discussed additional positive steps that Pakistan can take and the importance of recent efforts for improving US-Pakistan relations.

“Ambassador Khalilzad and Pakistani officials also discussed the benefit of improved Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in reaching, implementing, and sustaining a durable peace. Both countries will benefit from the increased regional connectivity, cooperation and integration that peace in Afghanistan offers. The United States stands ready to assist.”

Khalilzad latest trip to the region is part of the continued efforts to seek a peace deal in the neighboring country. His visit came as Afghan Taliban refused to agree on a ceasefire during Eid but said talks with the US would continue.

He is also scheduled to travel to Kabul, UAE and Qatar where he will have another round of talks with the Taliban. There have been some progress in earlier rounds but the Taliban’s insistence on clear timeframe for the US troops withdrawal and refusal to engage with the Kabul administration have continued to hamper the forward movement.

Despite uncertainty surrounding the outcome of peace talks, Khalilzad saw some positives in the Eid message given by Afghan Taliban chief. Khalilzad said that the statement provides “a desire to participate in dialogue with other Afghans and in a final political settlement that will require power sharing. “All good things.”

In an Eid message on Saturday, the Taliban leader stressed on his previous stance about an end to the presence of the US military in Afghanistan and said the group is open for talks but they expect “honesty” from the United States.