Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan came just a day after President Trump asked Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in facilitating the US to reach out a negotiated settlement with Afghan Taliban. In less than a year the shift in Trump’s tone towards Islamabad from calling Pakistan nothing but “lies and deceit” to acknowledging the costs of the Afghan war on Pakistan tells that the US realises that Pakistan has the most crucial role to play in shaping any future government set up in Kabul.
Khalilzad, who is racing around the region, should keep the fact in mind that the resurgent Taliban are in no rush for peace talks as the latter have made some significant gains in Afghanistan not long ago. Only recently, the Taliban dismissed Ashraf Ghani’s government as a puppet in the hands of the foreign powers and invaders.
Taliban forces do not want to include Ghani’s government in any peace negotiations. Hence a potential deadlock is visible before any talks take place. America needs Pakistan not to let Taliban create any possible impasse in peace talks and to convince Taliban on accepting Ghani’s government or for that matter any other one at the time of negotiations as a legitimate one. Pakistan, like always, has assured the US of its support in bringing an end to the Afghan war.
Time is of the essence as far as bringing peace to Afghanistan is concerned. As Khalilzad will be visiting other countries as well, it will be vital for him to “bring a less arrogant and hostile mindset” as Shireen Mazari understands it necessary for paving a way to bring Taliban to the negotiations table. Open-mindedness on the part of the American establishment is essential for the success of any negotiating process between the US and Taliban in future.
Imran Khan in his inaugural speech before the nation maintained that his government would bring a paradigm shift in country’s foreign policy. The crux of Imran’s foreign policy can be defined in one phrase; Pakistan will reimagine its foreign policy on the principles of non-alignment. However, at the same time, he maintained that maintaining warm relations with friendly nations and mending the strained ties with some major powers was what he wanted to secure.
Islamabad understands what a peaceful Afghanistan means to Pakistan and the entire region better than anyone else. Imran Khan will for sure play an active role in convincing Taliban to not let go the opportunity as he never believed in military solution for Afghanistan. Instead, he is one leader who from the very beginning stressed upon the need of holding peace talks with Afghan Taliban.