Trump's aide to discuss Afghan peace in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD .: Pakistan and the US will hold crucial talks this week in Islamabad to explore the possibility of resuming the Afghan reconciliation process.

Ambassador Alice Wells, senior state department official and President Trump’s point person for the region, is expected to travel to Pakistan for this purpose.

Wells, who is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, will meet senior officials at the Foreign Office as well as military authorities.

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The purpose of her visit, according to official sources, is to discuss the prospects of the resumption of the moribund Afghan peace process.

Pakistan is confident that the Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table after the successful ceasefire observed by the Afghan government and insurgents on Eid.

President Ashraf Ghani extended the truce for another 10 days and asked the Taliban to reciprocate. The insurgents, however, did not agree, and Ghani on Saturday announced to end the ceasefire.

He, nevertheless, hoped that the Taliban would opt for peace rather than continuing with the violence.

Sources familiar with the efforts to bring the Taliban back to the negotiating table said both Afghanistan and the United States wanted to reach some kind of deal with the insurgents before the parliamentary elections due later this year.

The long-delayed Afghan parliamentary polls are scheduled to take place on October 20. A precarious security situation and continued Taliban attacks may disrupt the democratic exercise.

During several rounds of discussions between Pakistani and Afghan officials, both sides discussed and even worked out a roadmap how to invite the Taliban to join the political process.

The Afghan president on Saturday confirmed that Pakistan and Afghanistan made considerable progress on how to achieve peace in the war-torn country.

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“Against this backdrop, the visit of Ambassador Wells holds great significance,” commented a senior Foreign Office official while requesting anonymity.

The official said despite the recent hiccup in ties, Pakistan and the US were still working closely to find a common ground on Afghanistan.

The recent killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah in a US drone strike in Afghanistan also helped restore some trust between Islamabad and Washington.

The Trump administration has been putting pressure on Pakistan to do more in the fight against terrorism; however, Islamabad has its own reservations — including the threat posed by the TTP and its affiliates operating out of Afghanistan.

Observers believe the elimination of Mullah Fazlullah, the most wanted terrorist in Pakistan, appears to suggest a new understanding between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US.

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At his weekly briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal gave an upbeat assessment of the Pak-US ties despite tensions in recent months.

“The Pak-US relation is on an upward trajectory. The negotiations are ongoing between both sides as we seek to find common ground in the bilateral relationship,” the spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.

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