ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan will get more involved in the Afghan peace process in the coming days amid preparations for Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump’s meeting.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan and the US are teaming up to expedite the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has been already active. It (Pakistan) will get more involved. The US wants more help from Pakistan,” said one official.

Another official said Pakistan had promised to use its influence for quick resolution of the existing issues between the Afghan Taliban and the US.

“Pakistan has played a role in US-Taliban dialogue. We will use our influence wherever we can to make the talks result-oriented. We have assured them (the US) of increased efforts (for peace in Afghanistan),” he maintained.

Yesterday, the ongoing seventh round of negotiations between Taliban representatives and US officials in Qatar made “spectacular progress” on a draft agreement to end the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan, Taliban’s political spokesman in Doha Suhail Shaheen said.

He said: “Eighty to ninety (80-90) percent work on the peace agreement is finished. Spectacular progress made in this round. The talks will continue.”

The talks in Doha, which began on June 29, are aimed at finalising a draft agreement on the potential withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The US has said it will not agree to the withdrawal of troops until the Taliban put in place security guarantees, implement a ceasefire across the country and commit to an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue with the Kabul government.

But the Taliban insist that the precondition of any agreement was the timeline for the withdrawal of the troops. The group also refuses to talk to the Afghan government, calling them a ‘puppet’ of the West.

There are about 17,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including a contingent of some 14,000 US soldiers, as part of a Washington-led Nato mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces.

This week, President Donald Trump said that Afghanistan was a ‘lab for terrorists’ and that even if the US did pull out its troops, it would leave a ‘very strong intelligence’ presence in the country.

Germany and Qatar have announced that an all-Afghan peace summit would be held in Doha on July 7-8 without the official participation of the Afghan government.

Germany, a key backer of the Kabul government, and Qatar, which hosts the US-Taliban talks, said invitations had been sent to all relevant parties.

The Afghans “will participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing,” Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an unannounced visit last week to Kabul that he was hoping for a peace deal with the Taliban “before September 1.”

Pakistan and the US are in talks for a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump this month. The two are expected to meet for the first time to discuss bilateral ties later this month in the US.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit the US on July 20 for five days. The visit, originally planned in June, was rescheduled because of Imran Khan’s prior domestic engagements, especially due to the federal budget 2019.

Earlier, the US appreciated Pakistan for improving the trust level with Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani completed his two-day Pakistan visit last month.

Pakistan also decided to extend the stay of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 30 next year. The decision by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions came during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and just before the June 30, 2019 deadline.

The two countries agreed to cooperate based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Prime Minister Khan previously said that Pakistan had “no favourite” in the upcoming presidential elections. The PM, who met a delegation of senior Afghan leaders leading different groups here, said Pakistan respected the Afghan people’s right to elect their leadership.

The Afghan leaders had earlier participated in the Lahore Peace Process organised by the Lahore Centre for Peace and Research in Murree.  Fifty-seven Afghan politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, second deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, attended the peace conference in Pakistan.

The presidential election scheduled for September 28 will be a key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democratic political structure. There are significant operational and technical challenges to be overcome.

The Afghan government has announced to release almost 900 Taliban prisoners. So far, figures show that almost 400 of the prisoners have been released.