US, Pakistan top diplomats discuss Afghanistan situation

KARACHI (AA): US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi by phone on the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan, which is gripped by uncertainty and fear since the Taliban takeover.

Reiterating Pakistan’s stance for an inclusive political settlement, Qureshi said Islamabad will remain “closely” engaged with the US and other international partners in promoting efforts in support of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, a statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said late Monday.

He also apprised Blinken of Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate the evacuation of personnel and staff of diplomatic missions, international organizations, media, and others.

The Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday and took control of Afghanistan. The Afghan government has collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad as foreign troops withdrew.

Islamabad is said to have influence over the Taliban, and thus has an important role in the Afghan peace process.

In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between the US and the Taliban, which led to the Doha peace deal in February 2020, and subsequently, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil.

In July 2015, Islamabad also facilitated the historic first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Pakistan.

The process, however, broke down after the news of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar’s death surfaced, triggering a bitter internal power struggle.

It was hampered further in 2016 by the assassination of Omer’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, in a US drone strike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Former US President Donald Trump stepped up efforts in August 2019 to restart the long-stalled process, seeking Pakistan’s assistance in ending Washington’s longest war in recent history.

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