ISLAMABAD  -   The United States has told Pakistan that its role was vital to peace in Afghanistan and success of talks with the Afghan Taliban, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US had acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in the recent US-Afghan Taliban talks.

“They (the US) has urged us (Pakistan) to continue to the ‘good job’ as Washington will keep pressing India for peace in return,” said one official.

He added: “Islamabad is happy that at least the US has recognised our efforts. We are committed to peace in Afghanistan.”

Another official said trust level between Pakistan and the US was improving due to the team efforts on Taliban talks but Washington was still reluctant to see Pakistan as a ‘trusted friend.’

“This will take time. If the things go on like this, we will soon be trusting each other once again,” he added.

Yesterday, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said ‘real strides’ had been made in the latest round of talks with Taliban. 

In a tweet, after concluding marathon peace talks with Taliban in Doha, he said “despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides.”

Zalmay Khalilzad said the conditions for peace have improved as all sides want to end the war.  He, however, said no agreement on a timetable for troop withdrawal has so far been reached.

The talks spanned 16 days, which is thought to be the longest consecutive discussions held between both sides.

The previous round of talks in January led the US and the Taliban to agree on a ‘draft framework’ on a troop withdrawal and counterterrorism measures.

Washington is seeking assurances that the Taliban will not allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to carry out terrorist attacks abroad - the reason US forces invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

“Peace requires agreement on four issues: counterterrorism assurances, troops’ withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire,” Khalilzad said

“When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire,” he added.

In a statement, the Afghan Taliban affirmed ‘progress was achieved’ on a troop withdrawal timeline and counterterrorism assurances. However, it stressed no ceasefire deal had been reached, nor any agreement made to conduct direct talks with the Afghan government, which it views as a US puppet.

“For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams,” the statement read.

Pakistan and the United States hope to finalise the settlement of the Afghanistan issue when their top leaders, Imran Khan and Donald Trump, possibly meet in the near future.

Recently, US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan.

This came as Washington stepped up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. In his letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated. “In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation”, it added.

Earlier, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had briefed Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about the US President’s letter written to Prime Minister Imran Khan for getting Pakistan’s cooperation regarding Afghan reconciliation process. Khalilzad had also visited Pakistan in October in his current capacity.

Pakistan has arranged a few meetings between Afghan Taliban and the US. Other friendly countries are also engaged.