ISLAMABAD - America's peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, visited Pakistan on Monday and conveyed Washington's gratitude for the "important role" Islamabad has played in easing the start of reconciliation talks between warring Afghan parties, officials said.
The historic, intra-Afghan negotiations began last Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where representatives of the Taliban insurgent group and the Kabul government are tasked with negotiating a cease-fire and a political settlement to four decades of hostilities in their country.
The U.S Embassy in Islamabad said Khalilzad and his delegation met with Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, and some of the country's other senior officials.
"Ambassador Khalilzad expressed appreciation on behalf of the United States, especially the important role that Prime Minister Imran Khan and General Bajwa played in facilitating the start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in Doha on Sept.12, and stressed the need for ongoing regional and international support for this historic opportunity for peace," the embassy said in a statement.
A military statement quoted Bajwa as saying that Pakistan was determined to further its mission of promoting regional peace, economic progress and prosperity.
"The visiting dignitary greatly appreciated Pakistan's role in the ongoing (Afghan) peace process and said that it could not have succeeded without Pakistan's sincere and unconditional support," the army statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.
Pakistan shares a nearly 2,600-kilometer traditionally porous border with Afghanistan and still hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees who have fled decades of conflict in their country.
Taliban insurgents allegedly have used Pakistani soil to direct and expand attacks against local and U.S.-led foreign troops in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has long been accused of covertly supporting the insurgents.
Islamabad rejects the charges, but officials have not ruled out the possibility of Taliban leaders and fighters using refugee populations as a hiding place.
Pakistani leaders take credit for persuading the Taliban to negotiate and sign a landmark agreement with the U.S. in February 2020 that led to the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha this past weekend.
The U.S.-Taliban deal commits all U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of April 2021 and close America's longest war.
Khan said Monday he hopes the ongoing Afghan peace talks succeed in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
"If it results in peace (in Afghanistan), it will (economically) connect the entire region all the way up to Central Asia," he said.