Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan renewed Wednesday his resolve to cooperate with the United States to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year.
Khan made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.
“The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s abiding interest in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through political settlement,” Khan’s office said in a statement issued after the meeting.
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday and held delegation level talks with senior foreign ministry officials before paying the courtesy call on Prime Minister Khan, officials said.
The U.S. envoy’s visit followed President Donald Trump’s formal request for Khan’s help in finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict.
“U.S. leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.
The Trump administration has tasked the Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul to persuade the Taliban to join an Afghan peace process for ending the protracted war.
U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban leaders and allowing them to orchestrate attacks inside Afghanistan. Islamabad rejects the charges.
Khalilzad is on an 18-day trip to region, his third since taking office, and plans to visit Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, UAE and Qatar, where the Taliban maintains its so-called political office.
During his previous two trips to the region, Khalilzad also traveled to Qatar and held marathon meetings with Taliban representatives there. He has held talks with Afghan politicians inside and outside of the government in Kabul.
Taliban officials insist that in talks with the U.S. they are seeking the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from the country before agreeing to join an intra-Afghan peace dialogue.
In a statement issued Tuesday, insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they “will not tolerate foreign occupying and military presence under any circumstance.”
Mujahid also dismissed reports that Khalilzad is discussing with the Taliban possible future political dispensation in Kabul and other related issues.
“The formation of a government, establishing security and developing Afghanistan is a matter concerning the Afghans. No foreign occupying force has any legal right for determine the fate of Afghanistan, interfere in its matters or make comments as a proprietor,” said the Taliban spokesman.
Khalilzad has shared few details of his talks with the Taliban, though he said last month he was “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a peace deal.