US Top envoy hints at deal between Pakistan and Afghanistan

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US Top envoy hints at deal between Pakistan and Afghanistan

The United States’ Special Representative to Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, voiced his hope that the Afghan government can reach a side-deal with Pakistan, with the latter’s support for the Taliban being an impediment to better relations in the past.

As the United States has started to expedite its withdrawal process from Afghanistan, especially in light of President Trump’s recent announcement to “bring troops back” by December, the plodding pace of the negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government continues to persist.

According to Khalilzad, speaking recently at the University of Chicago's Pearson Institute, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, and military chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, has been “helpful” in the diplomatic process - adding that, “we are seeking an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan as an adjunct to an internal peace”.

Critics, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan's historic rival India, see Islamabad as using its comprehensive military and intelligence apparatus to back Taliban violence as a means to exert influence on its neighbour. To this, Khalilzad added that both countries would, “agree that their territory will not be allowed to be used against the other by extremist groups or groups that would undermine the security of the other”.

Khalilzad mentioned that “There are economic reasons that would be transformative for the region should peace in Afghanistan come”, adding that he saw economic incentives for Pakistan, which suffers severe power shortages and could import power from electricity-rich Central Asia if the Afghan government and Taliban reach a deal.