A high-level Taliban delegation on Thursday met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as part of a push to revive the Afghan peace process stalled after US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the talks with the rebel group “dead”.
The Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday night. The issue of Afghan peace talks and regional situation were discussed during their meeting Qureshi, a Foreign Office official said. Qureshi told the delegation that war was not a solution of the ongoing unrest in Afghanistan. The delegation is also expected to meet American officials in Islamabad.
Taliban’s Pakistan visit is the fourth leg of a tour that included Russia, China and Iran. The Foreign Office announced on Wednesday that Afghan delegation was visiting on the invitation of Pakistan to review the progress made so far under the stalled US-Taliban peace talks.
US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is also in Pakistan to discuss revival of the peace talks. He may also meet the Taliban delegation. Khalilzad’s comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US where he met Trump and among other issues discussed the revival of negotiations to bring peace in Afghanistan.
Since his appointment in September last year, Afghanistan-born Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America’s longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.
The US and the Taliban had agreed on a draft peace plan, but the process was suspended by President Trump following the killing of an American soldier in Kabul last month in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.
Trump stunned the world when he suddenly declared that the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban were “dead”. He cancelled a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David near Washington after the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul, in which an American soldier was among the dead.
The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan and are more powerful now than they were at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks. The US has continued to push for a ceasefire in the war-torn country and the opening of negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.
The Taliban, however, have repeatedly refused to meet with officials of the Afghan government, whom they dismiss as “puppets”. The US has long considered Pakistani cooperation crucial to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.