Pakistan reiterates all-out support for process to bring about peaceful end to 17-year war in Afghanistan

Afghan envoy meets Pakistan's foreign minister

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan on Tuesday reiterated its “all-out” support for the ongoing process aimed at bringing a peaceful end to the 17-year war in neighboring Afghanistan, saying “it will do all to help end bloodshed” in the war-wracked country.

The assurance was held out by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a meeting with Umer Daudzai, the Afghan president’s special envoy for regional consensus on Afghan peace, in the capital Islamabad.

The envoy, currently visiting Islamabad in an attempt to shore up support for a fragile peace process, expressed Afghanistan’s “strong desire to work closely with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

Daudzai’s maiden visit came days after the Afghan Taliban refused to attend the Islamabad-sponsored fourth round of direct talks with the U.S. in Saudi Arabia, in a clear move to fend off Riyadh’s push to include the Afghan government in the talks.

The Taliban, which time and again have refused to hold direct talks with the Western-backed Afghan government, have also called for shifting the venue from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, where the militia have a political office.

The ministry statement did not say whether or not the Afghan envoy sought Islamabad’s help in persuading the Taliban to allow the inclusion of Kabul in the ongoing process.

“Pakistan will do all to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed and enter a new phase of peace and prosperity,” the statement said.

Washington, in recent months, has stepped up efforts to bring a negotiated end to its longest war in modern history.

Pakistan claims it “arranged” the ongoing direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban following a letter from President Donald Trump asking Islamabad to use its “influence” to bring the militia to negotiations.

Peace process

Pakistan had brokered the landmark first round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad in 2015, but the process broke down after Taliban announced the death of their long-time leader Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.

Chances for resuming the stalled process dimmed further following the death of Omer’s successor, Mullah Mansur, in a U.S. drone strike last year on Pakistan’s side near the Afghan border.

Since then, several attempts to resume the stalled peace process have been made by a four-nation group made up of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the U.S. and China.

Until now, however, these attempts have failed to bear fruit except for a couple of rounds of direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The Taliban have opened new battle fronts across the war-torn nation in recent months as Afghan security forces — suffering casualties and desertions — struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.

Pakistan released two top Taliban commanders, including former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, last October on the U.S. request to help facilitate the Afghan peace process.

Meanwhile, Russia has been in contact with the Taliban, based on the moderate, political wing of the movement, since 2007. The more Russia came at odds with the U.S., the more common cause it found with its opponents.

A recent fruit of this contact was the Taliban’s agreement to sit publicly with the Afghan government at the same table at a Nov. 9 Moscow conference on Afghanistan.

Russia hailed the second round of Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan as a “unique” public and open event of this kind. Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov characterized it as “a modest step towards full-fledged negotiations.”

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