Top US diplomat for Afghanistan meets Pakistan army chief for Taliban peace talks

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The US special envoy for Afghanistan and the commander of NATO forces there met Pakistan’s army chief on Monday to discuss the war-torn nation’s peace process at a pivotal juncture for the stalled negotiations.

Pakistan is the third country that US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has visited in the last week as Washington looks to inject new life into Afghan peacemaking with a US troop withdrawal deadline looming in May.

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Khalilzad and General Scott Miller, the head of US forces and the NATO-led non-combat Resolute Support mission, met General Qamar Javed Bajwa at Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi, according to the media wing of Pakistan’s military.

“Matters of mutual interest, regional security and ongoing Afghanistan Reconciliation Process were discussed during the meeting,” a statement said. “The visiting dignitary greatly appreciated Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace process.”

Pakistan is seen as a key player in Afghan peacemaking and has been acknowledged by Washington for helping to bring the insurgent Taliban to the negotiating table.

But the process has stalled amidst a resurgence of violence and disputes over the agenda for negotiations, including ceasefire arrangements.

The US special envoy proposed a shake-up of the process this week during visits to Kabul and the Qatari capital Doha, the venue for negotiations, according to diplomatic and political sources.

Khalilzad shared a letter with Afghanistan’s president and top peace official, published in local media and verified by Reuters, which said Washington would ask the United Nations to convene foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and United States “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.”

The State Department declined to confirm the letter’s veracity, but said on Sunday after it was published by media that all options remain on the table for its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

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