Upcoming Intra-Afghan talks

Pakistan and Afghanistan have reiterated their commitment to optimally utilize Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to deliberate on all key issues, effectively address common challenges, and pursue new opportunities. The Foreign Office statement was related to a visit to Kabul by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood who headed Pakistan’s delegation to Kabul. The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s abiding commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. The Afghan stakeholders must seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiated solution for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

On Monday, NSA advisor O’Brien spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about a U.S.-led push for peace talks with the insurgents to end the war. The NSA’s office tweeted that O’Brien discussed “the need for intra-Afghan talks to start without delay.” He reiterated U.S. support for “a sovereign, democratic, and unified #Afghanistan that never again serves as a source of international terrorism.”

Surely it is a little bit strange, to say the least, that the matter of Afghan peace is being pursued the hardest by neighbouring country Pakistan. And it is very ironic that this breakthrough has come about because of Pakistan’s limited leverage with the Taliban even though for the duration of the so called war on terror whenever Pakistan suggested dialogue with the Taliban to wrap things up it was always accused of siding with the enemy. Yet almost two decades and a lost fortune later even the Americans have realised that the only way of ending a war in Afghanistan is either by losing it or negotiating a settlement. If only they had listened to Islamabad in the days of General Musharraf instead of accusing the ISI of sabotaging their plans.

The matter was apparently stalemated even after the agreement to release prisoners and got the push it needed when a high-level Taliban delegation met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad and Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chairman of the Afghan government’s High Council National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah talked on the phone about the necessity of moving things forward. The only party that would really benefit from things not advancing is surely the Islamic State that continues to attract mercenary fighters from the border region with Pakistan especially TTP (Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan) fighters left over in the area.

Hopefully now everybody will stop questioning Pakistan’s commitment to the peace process and the general wellbeing of Afghanistan, like they have been doing for the past twenty years. It is also time, as Islamabad pointed out the other day, for all parties concerned to watch out for spoilers, particularly the Indian lobby active in Afghanistan with the one-point aim of harming Pakistan and aiding insurgents that fled from here when the army put its foot down. Yet now all eyes must turn to Afghanistan’s own internal dialogue and how the principal parties proceed with it. No doubt there will still be some friction from both sides.

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