ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. adviser on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with Pakistan’s foreign secretary, the foreign office said, days after visiting Kabul to try to restart talks with the Taliban for an end to the 17-year Afghan war.
The appointment last month of Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, highlighted the U.S. administration’s fresh efforts to convince Taliban leaders to participate in the Afghan peace process, despite a surge in the group’s attacks.
Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani in the Afghan capital on Sunday to discuss possible peace talks with the Taliban, who have repeatedly rejected negotiation offers and called for a boycott of an Afghan general election set for October 20.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua received Khalilzad and the two led “delegation-level talks”, with security, defence, and diplomatic officials from both countries attending, foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on social network Twitter.
Pakistan’s cooperation in the peace process is believed to be key to its success. The country’s powerful military is believed to have kept close ties to the Afghan Taliban since using it to blunt Indian influence in the region in the 1990s.
U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to Taliban militants in its border regions with Afghanistan and using them as an arm of its foreign policy. Pakistan staunchly denies using proxies.
Khalilzad is set to travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar after leaving Islamabad as part of a 10-day trip in a bid to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
The Afghan-born former ambassador’s knowledge of the country’s main languages, culture and politics could help him engage with all stakeholders in the peace process, besides his experience advising or working for four U.S. administrations.
Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez