U.S Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson told Congress in Washington on Wednesday that the U.S is working closely with Pakistan to ensure meaningful peace talks are held between Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Pakistan has also said it is taking concrete steps against militant groups that threaten regional stability, Olson said.
“We believe it [Pakistan] can also take more steps to put pressure on all terrorist groups in Pakistan that threaten regional stability,” Olson said.
“Pakistan is becoming a more constructive actor in the region – last July Pakistan facilitated a direct meeting between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Murree, Pakistan, a milestone in our ongoing efforts to pursue a political settlement in Afghanistan,” he added.
Meanwhile, the High Peace Council (HPC) welcomed recent moves including initiatives to resume peace talks with the Taliban, the U.S and Chinese’s willingness to remain engaged in talks and the UN’s willingness to supervise the process.
“Though it is Afghan-led peace talks, we believe that involvement of the U.S and China and UN supervision of talks is in support of the peace negotiation talks,” HPC member Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar said.
Renewed moves to hold peace talks have been welcomed following a period of heightened tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months – after a spate of deadly terrorist attacks that jolted major Afghan cities – attacks which Afghan officials believe had been planned on Pakistani soil.
The strained ties between Kabul and Islamabad appeared to have been overcome during President Ashraf Ghani’s tour to Pakistan last week where he notified Pakistani officials of Afghanistan’s security concerns and the threats emerging from Taliban insurgency.
However, Olson said Ghani made the trip to Islamabad at the request of Washington.
Amid new developments, Pakistan’s army chief general Raheel Sharif is also scheduled to visit Afghanistan in the near future where he will hold discussions with Afghan government officials on peace talks.
“During the tour Raheel Sharif will likely assure Afghan officials that they [Pakistan] will support peace talks,” Qasimyar said.
Nevertheless, an ex-Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam Raketi has said that the group will join the peace talks process if government meets a number of demands, including the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country and a place for them in government.
“Undoubtedly, Taliban are willing to negotiate if foreign troops are withdrawn and government considers a share to Taliban,” Raketi said.