Seeking to inject new energy into the long-stalled Afghan peace process, the top American diplomat charged with helping find a way to end the war the US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is on his third visit to Pakistan since he took charge of the office dealing with peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in September. He accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad just a day after his appointment and later visited the country again in October. His planned visit in November was cancelled because of scheduling issues. During the courtesy call by the US envoy, Prime Minister Khan recalled his personal commitment to the cause of regional peace. He welcomed the letter written to him by President Trump seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in ending the 17-year-old Afghan conflict, as well as Washington’s “assurance to work with Pakistan on this shared objective”. Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated Pakistan’s “abiding interest” in achieving lasting peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan through a political settlement. Despite reservations over his appointment, Pakistan extended full support to him because of its principled position about supporting efforts for peace in Afghanistan and secondly to capitalize on the shift in the Trump administration’s policy towards negotiations with the Taliban. In a major gesture to Washington in October after Khalilzad’s visit, Pakistan had set free former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal had on that occasion said that Baradar was released “at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan”. Khalilzad’s Islamabad trip was preceded by a letter from President Trump to Prime Minister Khan in which he sought Pakistan’s help for the peace process and at the same time acknowledged that Pakistan suffered from terrorism. The letter managed to set a positive tone for the special envoy’s visit. Khalilzad during a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was assured that Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Khalilzad says he has been reassuring Pakistani leaders that the US does not seek any political settlement in Afghanistan that’s hostile to Pakistan. He said that it was time for Pakistan to “play a positive role” for peace in Afghanistan. However, caution is a must as the conflict is too complicated to yield quick breakthroughs. Both the US and Pakistan must introduce a constructive narrative to weaken the spoilers. At the same time though, they’ll have to close the eyes to the public speaking and not use it to exert pressure on the other side. In the meantime, they must keep proving their sincerity to each other through deeds rather than words.
Both the US and Pakistan must introduce a constructive narrative to weaken the spoilers.