ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States are moving forward to resolve the Afghanistan issue as Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad completed his Islamabad visit.

Senior government officials told The Nation on Wednesday, the US had expressed satisfaction over Pakistan’s role for Afghan peace. “They (Pakistan and the US) want to move forward and clinch a deal with the Afghan Taliban for stability in Afghanistan,” said one official.

Another official said there could be more meetings with the Afghan Taliban in the near future to finalise a deal.

“Pakistan wants all the Afghan parties to accept the agreement for a long term solution. The US agrees with this idea,” he added. A US embassy statement said yesterday, Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad on October 28-29. “In his meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other government officials, Ambassador Khalilzad discussed the current status of the Afghan peace process and the importance of reducing violence,” said the statement.

Khalilzad completes new round of talks with Pak leaders

It added: “He also underscored the economic and security benefits peace can bring to the region.”

The Afghan government has set new conditions for talks with the Taliban and appeared to shed a previously conciliatory stand towards Pakistan.

This week, Hamdullah Mohib, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s security adviser, said that Kabul wanted Pakistan, which says it wants peace, to not incite the conflict in Afghanistan and aid the Taliban. He also said Kabul insists on a one-month ceasefire as a precondition for talks with the Taliban.

Pakistan has been pushing for a resumption of US-Taliban talks since they collapsed in September after US President Donald Trump declared the negotiations ‘dead.’

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

Khalilzad earlier met Afghan leaders including President Ashraf Ghani, who has mostly dismissed any talks not led by his government.

Afghan President Ghani has been opposed to the US-Taliban deal negotiated in Qatar by the US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, because the Afghan government had been excluded from the talks.

According to most accounts, the agreement was extremely limited, exchanging the offer of a US troop withdrawal for a Taliban undertaking that attacks on the US would not be launched from Afghanistan. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said it was up to the Taliban when talks would resume.

Pakistan is leading the Afghan peace process as Afghan Taliban met the Pakistani civil and military leadership this month amid the group’s stalled dialogue with the United States.

The two sides agreed that peace was a mutual goal and talks were the only way to achieve normalise situation in the war-torn Afghanistan.

The delegation of the Taliban Political Commission in Doha - led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar - held an important meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of negotiations to end persisting deadlock with the US regarding Afghan peace process.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has reiterated Pakistan’s commitment and continued strong support for all efforts in this regard.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump have held two meeting in three months to discuss Afghanistan among other issues. They had agreed in July to bolster cooperation on Afghanistan to pressure Taliban militants to reach a peace deal.

This year, Pakistan had decided to extend the stay of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 30, 2020. The decision by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions came during Afghan President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and just before the June 30, 2019 deadline.

The two countries have 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.