Zalmay Khalilzad – the US special envoy for Afghanistan – has said that Taliban’s senior leader Mullah Baradar was released by Pakistan at his request to expedite the Afghan peace process with the Taliban. Khalilzad, while speaking at an event organised by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), also said that during his meetings, even though he had discussed US withdrawal with the Taliban, however, no deadline was set.
Khalilzad also acknowledged that he had reached an agreement on a broader withdrawal framework with the Taliban in Doha last month, however, there was still need for more talks to reach a definitive conclusion on the matter.
Khalilzad also said that Pakistan had played a positive role during the whole process, revealing that Mullah Baradar’s release was made possible after his request to the Pakistani government. Khalilzad believed that being a senior leader, Baradar could play a positive and constructive role in the peace process. While further discussing the role of Pakistan, Khalilzad said that “Pakistan was an important country and the US wanted better relations with Islamabad.”
However, even after the recent developments, Khalilzad believed it would take more than one meeting to end what he called a 40 year old war. He believed that previous governments and regimes had failed in the country because they tried to impose their views during their rule.
Khalilzad also believed that recent developments in the peace process suggest that all the key stakeholders and parties were now willing to accommodate each other.
In wake of these developments, it was also reported today that Khalilzad is also scheduled to visit Pakistan before February 20 to discuss developments on peace talks and finalization of the peace accord with the Taliban. Reports suggest that the Trump administration might have taken a final decision regarding a pull-out from Afghanistan, and therefore Washington believes that Pakistan has an important role to play in the whole process.
Officials in Islamabad also believe that the peace talks between the US and the Taliban are a major diplomatic victory for all local and regional stakeholders.