Afghan President Travels To Pakistan For Talks On Peace With Taliban

Afghanistan’s president has held talks with Pakistan’s prime minister as momentum builds for peace talks with the Taliban that are aimed at ending Afghanistan’s decades of war and conflict.

Ashraf Ghani’s June 27 meeting with Imran Khan came as the Afghan leader started a two-day trip to Pakistan, his first since elections that brought Khan to power last year.

In addition to the Taliban peace negotiations, Ghani’s visit is also seen as an attempt to improve the often-strained relationship between the two neighbors.

According to a statement released by Khan’s office, the two leaders “agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation…based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

Earlier, Ghani met with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi where he “praised Pakistan’s role in the peace process,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Pakistan has facilitated ongoing peace negotiations between Washington and the Taliban, with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad trying to find a negotiated exit to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Ghani’s visit comes a week after dozens of Afghan political leaders attended a peace gathering in Pakistan.

The Taliban has refused to talk directly with Kabul government representatives, calling them U.S. puppets.

Khalilzad, meanwhile, traveled to Tajikistan for talks with Tajik officials on the Afghan peace push.

Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha. The next round is scheduled to begin on June 29.

The talks are expected to focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.