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US' special envoy in Pakistan for revival of talks with Taliban

US special envoy in Pakistan for revival of talks with Taliban

Islamabad: US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Pakistan to discuss revival of the peace talks with the Pakistani leaders and a possible meeting with a Taliban delegation headed by the group's co-founder and chief peace negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The visit comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the US where he met President Donald Trump and among other issues discussed the revival of negotiations to bring peace in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad also met Prime Minister Khan in New York, where he was to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, and exchanged views about renegotiating with the Taliban.

The US and the Taliban had agreed on draft peace plan, but the process was suspend by President Trump following killing of an American soldier in Kabul last month in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.

Trump stunned the world when he suddenly declared that the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban were "dead".

He cancelled a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David near Washington after the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul, in which an American soldier was among the dead.

A delegation of Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Baradar will visit Pakistan on Wednesday for talks aiming to put the peace process back on track, a Taliban spokesman has said.

Suhail Shaheen announced on social media that the delegation will hold discussions with the Pakistani officials on a range of key issues.

Baradar had travelled to China, Russia and Iran since the collapsing of peace talks with US last month, Shaheen tweeted.

Khalilzad landed in Islamabad on Tuesday and is expected to meet foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He is expected to meet the Taliban delegation which will be first direct contact between the two sides in about a month.

The talks with the Taliban delegation are expected to help revive the stalled Afghan peace process.

Apart from the presence of Khalilzad in Islamabad, two American congressmen and NATO military chief in Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller are also in the Pakistani capital.

Representative Jim Himes and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney met Pakistan's foreign minister Qureshi on Tuesday, according to a statement by the Foreign Office here.

Khalilzad's visit is part of efforts to build trust before sitting with the Taliban and prepare them for intra-Afghan dialogue.

Presidential elections were held in Afghanistan on September 28 and the winner will be announced next month.

Since his appointment in September last year, Afghanistan-born Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America's longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.

The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful now than they were at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The US has continued to push for a ceasefire in the war-torn country and the opening of negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

The Taliban, however, have repeatedly refused to meet with officials of the Afghan government, whom they dismiss as "puppets".

During the talks held in January, the Taliban signalled their seriousness by appointing Baradar as their chief peace negotiator.

Baradar, one of the four top commanders who formed the Taliban in 1994, was released from jail last year by the Pakistan government. He is believed to be the highest ranking Afghan Taliban prisoner freed so far.

He held several senior positions in the Taliban government before its fall in 2001 and once considered the most influential Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar.

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