Khalilzad’s meeting with COAS

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US Special Representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad met with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit of Islamabad. Matters pertaining to the reconciliation process in Afghanistan and regional security came up for discussion in the meeting. The COAS reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to restoring lasting peace and stability in the war torn country. The signing of peace deal between US and the Taliban on February 29 in Doha raised the hope of early intra-Afghan dialogue to reach a broad-based political settlement, acceptable to all Afghan political groups and sitting government in Kabul. Process of prisoners’ swap between President Ashraf Ghani government and the Taliban started did start in April. Afghan government released 100 Taliban fighters and the latter freed 20 government officials. However, level hostilities between both sides did not go down appreciably. There has been spike in attacks by Taliban fighters on government forces since March. According to Afghan National Security Council, Taliban fighters carried out 55 attacks in one day. In response to increased frequency of violence, US Defence Department had announced its first air strike on Taliban positions in Afghanistan on March 4. Kabul government and the Taliban are accusing each other of violations of peace agreement. The blame game on both sides and delay in intra-Afghan dialogue process is making illusive the return of peace and stability. Other countries of the region are worried about the presence of sanctuaries of ISIS terrorists inside Afghanistan and its spell-over effect but perhaps Taliban and Afghan government are not. Let us hope better sense will prevail.