Taliban-US Talks: ‘Pakistan has very crucial role to play, released Mullah Baradar on behest of US’

Top Taliban leader Mullah Baradar who now leads the peace efforts with the US, was released by the Pakistan at the behest of the Trump Administration, an US envoy said.

According to a report by the Press Trust of India, the special envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, told a Washington audience that Pakistan had a very crucial role to play in the reconciliation process with the Taliban but has “historically not played a positive role”.

But there is “a positive change” in Pakistan’s attitude in recent times, he said when asked about the role of Islamabad in his ongoing efforts to bring peace in this war-ravaged country.

Recently, Taliban has appointed co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as the leader of their political office in Qatar to lead talks with the United States to end the Afghan war.

The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar’s appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with US officials gain momentum.

“The release of Mullah Baradar, which was my request… they (Pakistan) accommodated that, because Mullah Baradar has reputation of being more open, more pro-peace,” said the top American envoy who is leading the Trump Administration’s efforts to have peace talks with the Taliban.

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani have said that Baradar can play a pivotal role in the peace process and that he has tried to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the US, Khalilzad said.

Pakistan, he said, favours inter-Afghan dialogue including between the Taliban and the government.
So, the release of Baradar is a very positive thing, he said.

“We always would like Pakistan, like other countries to do more, but we appreciate what they have done so far and I have indicated and Secretary (of State), (Mike) Pompeo and the president that we want to have good relations with Pakistan, better relations with Pakistan,” he said in response to a question.

“What they (Pakistan) do on Afghanistan to facilitate peace and reconciliation, which has been a burden on the relationship, that will be removed,” he added.

“Pakistan is an important country with which we want to have better relations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khalilzad said the United States is hoping they can strike a peace deal before the presidential elections in Afghanistan scheduled for July.

“It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July,” Khalilzad said, adding that there remained “a lot of work” to do.

“We are after a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement. A peace agreement can allow withdrawal,” Khalilzad said.

He added that “elections make the peace agreement more complicated”.


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