Top Afghan negotiator in Taliban talks arrives in Pakistan

Afghanistan’s top official in negotiations with the Taliban arrived in Pakistan’s capital Monday on a three-day trip during which he will meet with the country’s prime minister and other government officials.

Abdullah Abdullah, who leads the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, was received by top government officials on arriving in Islamabad. Later he took to Twitter to say he had a constructive meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“We discussed the #PeaceProcess, the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, & strengthening bilateral relations,” he tweeted.

Apart from meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Afghan reconciliation leader was also expected to meet with President Arif Alvi, army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the speaker of the National Assembly and the chairman of the Senate.

The council represents the Afghan government in historic peace negotiations with the Taliban which began in Qatar on Sept. 12. Those talks represent the most-serious effort yet at ending decades of war in Afghanistan that followed the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled its Taliban government, which then hosting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who planned the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Afghan-Taliban talks come after a deal signed in February between the U.S. and the Taliban. That aims to allow the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan and end the longest military engagement in American history.

Many Taliban leaders have lived in Pakistan since the 1980s. In those years they were part of the Afghan mujahedeen, allies of the U.S. in ending the 10-year occupation of the country by the Soviet Union.

Pakistan has denied giving sanctuary to Taliban members following their ouster in 2001. However, both Washington and Kabul routinely accuse Islamabad of giving them a safe haven, citing the Taliban long ties with Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Khan publicly has said his government facilitated the talks. He said now it was now up to the Afghans to seize this opportunity.

Abdullah’s visit “will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan fully supports all efforts for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people.”

Also on Monday, Pakistan’s military said militants in an overnight attack opened fire on troops patrolling the former northwestern tribal town of Shakai, near the border with Afghanistan, killing an army captain Abdullah Zafar.

Pakistan’s border areas in the northwest served as a base for the Pakistani Taliban and other militants until a few years ago, when the army said it cleared the region of insurgents. But occasional attacks have continued.