Washington’s newly named point man tasked with finding a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war is in Pakistan to seek help from the new government in Islamabad in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, the US Embassy said on Tuesday.
A former US Ambassador in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan. His tour of the region will also include West Asian stops in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In Afghanistan, he met with President Ashraf Ghani, a long-time friend. Khalilzad, who was also born in Afghanistan, first served in Kabul as a special envoy of President George W. Bush following the 2001 ouster of the Taliban, and then later as Washington’s Ambassador.
But Khalilzad has had a prickly relationship with Pakistan and has often accused Islamabad of fomenting violence in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban. He has even said the US should declare Pakistan a terrorist state.
Washington and Kabul have both repeatedly accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for Taliban insurgents, a claim Islamabad has denied and countered with charges that its own insurgents have found sanctuary in Afghanistan.
Both neighbouring countries have been brutally targeted by militants. In Pakistan, the perpetrators have most often been the region’s Islamic State affiliate, as well as the Pakistani Taliban. In neighbouring Afghanistan, the IS has been relentless in attacks, mostly targeting minority Shias. The Afghan Taliban say they restrict their attacks to Afghan security forces but thousands of civilians have been killed in their attacks.
In Pakistan, Khalilzad was met by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, who led a delegation that included “security, defence and diplomatic officials,” according to a tweet from the foreign office spokesman. There were no further details. Pakistan’s Afghan policy is largely seen as navigated by the military and its intelligence agency, known by its acronym, ISI.