Pakistan’s Qureshi Meets Khalili, Talks Afghan Peace

“The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan,” Pakistan said.

Mohammad Karim Khalili, the leader of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e Islami and the former head of the High Peace Council, during a trip to Pakistan met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s call for “all sides to take measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire. He also cautioned against the role of ‘spoilers’ within and outside Afghanistan, who do not wish to see return of peace in Afghanistan and the region,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Khalili and Qureshi discussed Pakistan-Afghanistan relations and progress in the Afghan peace process.

“The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He underscored that after the Afghans, Pakistan was the country most desirous of peace in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Qureshi also underlined that the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan were linked through immutable bonds of history, faith, culture and traditions.

“He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Afghanistan in all fields. The Foreign Minister highlighted the various steps taken by Pakistan to strengthen bilateral and transit trade and introduction of revised visa policy to facilitate Afghan nationals,” according to the statement.

“Pakistan had always emphasized that there was no military solution of the Afghan conflict and that a negotiated political settlement was the only way forward,” he said and emphasized “the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.”

Afghan peace

Sources from the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan told TOLOnews that agreeing on the agenda for the negotiations will take time and that neither side has shown flexibility over the last three days.

The sources said that the republic’s negotiating team is insisting on ceasefire as a priority in their formal talks, but the Taliban holds that a discussion about a ceasefire must come only after an agreement on a future government.

The working groups of the two sides have held meetings over the last three days.

Meanwhile, the High Council for National Reconciliation stated that attempts to find a solution to unify the agenda are underway.
Peace negotiators went to Doha last week to resume the talks that were stopped for 23 days for consultation on the agenda of the negotiations.

Foreign troops drawdown

The US military has not halted a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Department of Defense told Reuters on Monday, despite a new law prohibiting further reductions without the Pentagon sending Congress an assessment of the risks, Reuters reported.

“Currently, no new orders have been issued which impact the progression of the conditions-based drawdown expected to reach 2,500 (troops) by Jan. 15, 2021,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Pentagon’s action will likely anger Republican and Democratic lawmakers opposed to further troop cuts and renew concerns about the outgoing Trump administration’s disdain for Congress, even in its waning days.

“If they are continuing the drawdown, that would be a violation of the law,” said a congressional aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The White House declined to comment.

Halting the drawdown could jeopardize the US-backed Afghanistan peace process as a February 2019 agreement with the Taliban calls for a complete US troop withdrawal by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling security guarantees.

In November, the Pentagon said it would reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

But this month Congress enacted a defense policy bill – overriding a veto by President Donald Trump – that bars using funds appropriated for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to pay for a drawdown below 4,000 US troops until acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller submits to Congress a “comprehensive, interagency assessment of the risks and impacts.”

It is unclear how many troops have been moved out of Afghanistan since the law passed.