ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to continue cooperating with each other for peace in Afghanistan.
The resolve was expressed in a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) after a meeting between Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad.
“During the meeting matters of mutual interest including overall regional security situation with particular reference to ongoing Afghan reconciliation process were discussed,” the ISPR said.
“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” it added.
The meeting took place a day before the intra-Afghan talks are set to resume in Qatar’s capital Doha after a three-week recess. The two sides were negotiating the agenda of the talks when they went on the break.
The talks started in September and progressed at a snail’s pace before the two sides were able to agree on the ‘principles and procedures’. The dialogue has, moreover, so far taken place under the shadows of increased violence.
Taliban have been refusing to discuss ceasefire and are believed to be instead using violence as a leverage during talks. The Afghan government negotiating team is, meanwhile, expected to once again push for ceasefire when the talks resume.
Taliban, meanwhile, also accuse US forces of carrying out air strikes against them in violation of the Feb 2020 agreement signed between them, which paved the way for the start of intra-Afghan dialogue and phased withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The US has reduced the number of its troops from nearly 12,000 in February last year to about 2,500 currently. The plan is to complete the withdrawal by May if things on the ground improve. It is unclear if incoming US President Joe Biden would abide by the agreement with Taliban or would insist on keeping back a residual force.
Pakistan provided extensive cooperation to the US first in reaching an agreement with Taliban and later in overcoming the hurdles that came in the way at subsequent stages.
“The visiting dignitary acknowledged Pakistan’s ongoing efforts for enduring peace in Afghanistan and the region,” the ISPR said.
Published in Dawn, Jannuary 5th, 2021