US Afghan peace envoy takes push for peace to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) – A United States (US) peace envoy remained in Pakistan yesterday as part of efforts to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 18 -year war, even though US President Donald Trump has not expressed any interest in resuming talks with the Taleban.

The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday and held talks with the country’s powerful military chief yesterday.

Officials in Pakistan, where the Taleban governing council is believed to be headquartered, have been pushing for a resumption of direct US-Taleban talks since they collapsed in early September after Trump halted talks with the Taleban and cancelled what had seemed an imminent deal.

Trump’s move followed a series of violent attacks in the Afghan capital that killed several people, including a US soldier.

During their meeting on Monday, Khan called on all sides in Afghanistan’s protracted war to “take practical steps for the reduction of violence,” according to a statement.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad speaks on the prospects for peace at the US Institute of Peace, in Washington. PHOTO: AP

Civilian casualties have been rising fast in recent months, according to the United Nations (UN), which blames both insurgents and US and Afghan government security forces. So far this year, there have been more than 8,000 casualties.

The Taleban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said last week that if the US were to go back and sign the nearly imminent deal with the Taleban, there would be a cease fire first with US and NATO troops, followed by a negotiated cease-fire between the insurgents and Afghan forces.

“If the US returns to the negotiating table and signs the agreement, then there will be a cease fire and reduction of violence,” Shaheen said.

Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he met with leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, who has mostly dismissed any talks with the Taleban not led by the Kabul government.But Afghanistan has just come out of a presidential election marred by allegations of corruption and fraud.

Nearly a month since the vote, which appeared to have a low turnout, no results have been released. Preliminary results are now expected on November 14.