Pakistan-US talks on peace in Afghanistan to be held next week

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells — is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week to explore the possibility of a permanent peace in Afghanistan, official sources told Dawn.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon reporters on Monday that he saw encouraging signs for substantive talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban after 17 years of war.

Secretary Mattis noted that the Eid ceasefire initiated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had also “cut deep into the Taliban. We’ll see how this goes forward”.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also offered to discuss with the Taliban their demand for the withdrawal of US and international forces from Afghanistan, adding that Washington would “support, facilitate and participate in these discussions”.

Earlier this month, Ms Wells — who looks after South and Central Asian affairs — told a congressional panel that Pakistan had “an important role” and “legitimate interests” in Afghanistan, which “it wants to ensure are met during any peace process”.

Ms Wells, who previously served at the US Embassy in Islamabad, has visited the Pakistani capital several times this year, mostly as a troubleshooter for talks on issues of immediate concern.

But her next visit is of a different nature and reflects the Trump administration’s desire to engage the Taliban in peace talks. If the talks fail, Washington may launch a major military offensive against those who refuse to talk.