ISLAMABAD (AP) – Top Afghan officials in negotiations with the Taliban arrived in the Pakistani capital Monday on a three-day trip where he will meet the country’s prime minister and other government officials.
Abdullah Abdullah, who heads Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, was received by top government officials upon his arrival in Islamabad. As well as meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan, the leader of Afghanistan reconciliation will also meet President Arif Alvi, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials.
The council represents the Afghan government in historic peace negotiations with the Taliban that began in Qatar on September 12. The talks are the most serious attempt yet to end the decades-long war in Afghanistan that followed the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban. government, which later hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who planned the September 11 attacks.
Afghanistan-Taliban talks come after a deal was signed in February between the US and the Taliban. It aims to allow the US to withdraw from Afghanistan and end the longest-running 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, a US ally in ending 10 years of occupation of the country by the Soviet Union.
Pakistan has denied providing protection to Taliban members following their overthrow in 2001. However, both Washington and Kabul routinely accuse Islamabad of providing them with safe haven, citing the Taliban’s long association with Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Service Intelligence agency.
Khan publicly said his government was facilitating the talks. He said now it was up to Afghanistan to take advantage of this opportunity.
Abdullah’s visit “will provide an opportunity for a broad exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and the strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and person-to-people interactions,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan fully supports all efforts for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people.”
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