Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Invites Imran Khan to Visit Kabul

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JUL 29, 2018 (Updated): Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday held a telephone conversation with Prime Minister-elect Imran Khan and joined other heads of States in congratulating Khan on his party’s victory in the July 25 elections.

The two leaders agreed to overcome the past and lay a new foundation for a prosperous political, social and economic future of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, report the Ariana News.

“I extended an open invitation to Mr. Khan and he expressed his wishes to visit Kabul soon,” President Ghani tweeted.

This comes as on Thursday, in his first speech after declaring victory, Khan talked about Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors Afghanistan and India including the US which has agreed to hold direct talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Khan had said Afghanistan has suffered tremendously due to war and violence over the past few decades and that Pakistan is ready to cooperate in ensuring peace in the war-weary country.

“We want to work in every possible way to ensure peace in Afghanistan. I would love an open border system like the EU with Afghanistan. Afghanistan is that neighbor of ours that has seen the most human misery and damage in the name of wars. The people of Afghanistan need peace, and Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Khan has maintained his stance that the US-led war is not a solution to bringing durable peace in Afghanistan and the wider region — a narrative the Western media used to dub him “Taliban Khan”.

Given his longstanding position on the war on terror and his recent victory backed by his popularity in the Pak-Afghan border region (Pashtun belt), Khan could play a significant role, said Pakistan’s defense attache to Saudi Arabia Brig. Shahid Manzoor. Several observers agree.

“Imran’s rise has been primarily fueled by his Pashtun votebnk, even this can be leveraged to facilitate deescalation between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Brig. Manzoor.

Stakeholders look forward to Khan using his statesmanship and working-relationship with the powerful military to play historical role, the observers added.

Top US officials meet Afghan Taliban in Qatar

Taliban officials reportedly held face-to-face meetings with American diplomats in Doha last week, several US media outlets have reported.

The New York Times (NYT), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Voice of America (VOA) reported that Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, led the US team in these talks.

The NBC News television channel reported last week that five US diplomats participated in these talks with Taliban representatives and that some meetings were also held in Afghanistan and UAE.

NYT described the meetings as “a reversal of a longstanding US policy” of not holding direct talks with the Taliban.

WSJ reported that the meeting between Ms Wells and Taliban political leaders in Qatar earlier this week was “an effort to lay the groundwork for peace talks.”

General Joseph Votel, who oversees the war in Afghanistan as head of US Central Command, told WSJ that the United States was focusing on both military and diplomatic means for resolving the Afghan conflict.

“If we only focus on objective aspects, you will miss something. There is something to the fact that people are tired and saw something in the ceasefire that got them excited,” he said.

This week’s meeting involved several members of the Taliban political commission, Ms Wells and other unidentified American diplomats, the NYT report said, noting that the Taliban have long maintained an informal “political office” in Doha for the purpose of restarting the long-dormant peace process.

NBC News reported that both sides had decided not to publicize the meetings.

NYT, WSJ and VOA reported that the State Department refused to comment when contacted by their correspondents but did not deny the Taliban claim that senior US diplomats had met their representatives.

Last week, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert confirmed that Ms Wells was in Qatar last week where she met the deputy prime minister and other Qatari officials to “talk about their contributions to the situation in Afghanistan.”

Ms Nauert also praised Qatar’s efforts for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, adding that Ms Wells went there to “commend the government for their ongoing support for peace in Afghanistan.”

Earlier, a State Department official told Dawn that Washington was exploring “all avenues” to advance the Afghan peace process, and was doing so “in close consultation” with the Afghan government.

The United States and Afghanistan are also trying to arrange a second ceasefire with the Taliban over Eid ul Azha. They were doing so because they believed that the Eid ul Fitr ceasefire had brought the Taliban closer to the Afghan peace process.

“If you can get a ceasefire that lasts a few days, perhaps you could get another one that lasts a little bit longer, and that gives the people of Afghanistan hope,” Ms Nauert said.

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