US President visit of Kabul
President Donald Trump paid a surprise visit to Kabul on Thursday to meet the US troops on Thanks Giving Day and had dinner with them. His first visit to Afghanistan since becoming President took place days after the release of two American Professors of Afghan University in exchange for freeing Taliban prisoners by Kabul government. Talking to reporters President Trump expressed optimism about a likely deal with the Taliban, saying that both sides are willing to have ceasefire and reach a settlement for ending 18 year long war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has always been keen on the political settlement of Afghan war. It facilitated the first round of direct talks between the US top diplomat Alice Wells with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar in July last year. However, PTI government is pursuing proactive diplomacy for a political settlement which leads to the formation of a broad based government that represents all parties including the sitting government in Kabul. It supports intra-Afghan dialogue to achieve this objective. The recent visit of Taliban leaders and meeting with political leadership vindicates Pakistan’s desire for achieving peace deal and stability in Afghanistan. Earlier, Afghan Peace Conference was held in Burbhan in June, which attended by 57 delegates of 18 political parties and groups from Afghanistan. The conference was a concrete diplomatic move to initiate intra-Afghan dialogue. The Taliban leadership has not yet shown willingness of holding talks with government in Kabul, which is a party to the ongoing conflict.
The US Special Representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad had held several rounds of talks with senior Talban leaders which made progress towards ceasefire and eventual peace deal. The fifth round of talks between the two parties was reported to be focused on four key points, which pertained to counterterrorism assurance, comprehensive ceasefire; foreign troops withdrawal and holding of intra-Afghan dialogue. But the continued violence in Afghanistan in the shape of suicide bomb attacks and firing incidents on citizens, Afghan and NATO forces culminated in the postponement of directs talks between the United States and Taliban.
The Taliban leadership must realise the gravity of threat that presence of ISIS in Afghanistan pose to the peace of entire region. Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and the Central Asian states are very concerned about the strong hold of this international terrorist organization, its swelling number of fighters and coming of other militant outfits under its umbrella. In a trilateral meeting between the United States, Russia and China held in March in Washington, representatives of three countries had discussed how to coordinate their strategies for restoring peace in Afghanistan. It was agreed to continue discussion for further streamlining the peace process. After the postponement of peace talks by the United States in September, President Trump optimism about the resumption of US-Taliban talks process and seriousness of peace deal on both sides rekindles the hope for end of Afghan conflict and durable political settlement.