ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan has asked the United States to stop Afghanistan from hurting the peace efforts amid renewed hopes of result-oriented dialogue with the Afghan Taliban.

Senior government officials told The Nation on Sunday that Islamabad had urged Washington to press Kabul to end the blame game and work together with Pakistan and the US to find a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue.

“Afghanistan instead of being thankful to us is hurling allegations. This is not acceptable. The talks with the Taliban are not designed against the Afghanistan government,” said one official citing the top leadership.

Another official said that the US had acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts for Afghan peace and promised to calm down Kabul.

Earlier, the Afghan government had criticised Pakistan for hosting Taliban leaders and demanded of Islamabad to stop “sheltering militants” on its soil.

A high-level Taliban delegation, led by the group’s deputy head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had arrived in Islamabad on October 2 to hold talks with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and others.

“Hosting an insurgent group is against all norms and principles among countries,” said Sediq Seddiqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s chief spokesperson.

Islamabad, however, said that it would continue making efforts for “lasting peace in Afghanistan” after holding initial talks with the Taliban leaders. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the meeting with Pakistani officials involved discussions on Afghan refugees, businessmen based in Pakistan and regional security.

The Taliban delegation had arrived in Islamabad when the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was also in the city and sources confirmed that a meeting did take place between the two sides. There were also claims of a second follow-up meeting.

The development came weeks after US President Donald Trump abruptly called off peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar after nearly a year of intense engagement that had created high hopes of a deal to restore peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan.

Trump linked his move to the killing of a US solider in Kabul by the Taliban in a suicide attack which also claimed the lives of 10 Afghans.

PM Khan, who met with Trump in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, urged the stalled peace dialogue to resume and offered his country’s positive role to help support the two sides.

Before the Pakistan visit, the Taliban delegation also visited Russia, China and Iran, propagating the group’s point of view that it was interested in resuming talks with Washington while blaming Trump for cancelling a peace deal that had reached its final stage.

Thousands of US troops still remain in Afghanistan and Trump has repeatedly expressed his frustration with their continued deployment, complaining that they have taken on the duties of policing the nation.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced over the weekend that the US military had ramped up the number of air and ground attacks against Taliban insurgents at the direction of Trump.

“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the (peace) talks broke down,” Esper said at a media interaction. “The president spoke about this publicly. We did pick up the pace considerably.”

He emphasized: “The President (Donald Trump) did want us to pick up the response to this. You had the heinous attacks that the Taliban and others conducted throughout Afghanistan, in Kabul and a couple of other places.”

After calling off the peace talks, Trump suggested the Taliban were coming under surging military pressure and claimed in a speech marking the September 11, 2001 incidents that “the last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue.”

But Esper refused to offer any figures to quantify the rising strikes and did not state whether the US troops in Afghanistan were going outside the wire more often now. “I don’t want to comment in terms of detail because, frankly, I don’t have that level of detail, but we did pick up the pace of attacks, as the president has spoken about, with regard to both air and ground,” he maintained.