A vehicle with a windshield damaged from riots and protests is seen in Karachi. (Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg News)

Pakistan Casts Doubts on U.S.-Taliban Talks It Facilitated

(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan doubts any concrete progress will be made in the latest talks between the Afghan Taliban and the U.S. that Islamabad helped facilitate in the U.A.E. this week.

Officials from the two nations are at logger heads, with the Taliban wanting a long-requested timeline for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, while the U.S. is more interested in reaching a political settlement, according to a senior Pakistani official, who asked not to be identified discussing the private talks. Progress is unlikely to be made in this round of negotiations, the official said. The talks follow an initial meeting in Qatar in July and a round of Russia-hosted negotiations on Nov. 9.

“The deadlock in the Afghan peace process will remain even after these talks’’ due to Washington’s reluctance to outline a troop withdrawal process, said Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan. “These negotiations are set to fail and cannot bear any results unless the U.S. as well as the Afghan government change their stance.”

American officials have made limited headway in revitalized talks with Taliban leaders this year as they work to end the 17-year-conflict. Pakistan officials said U.S. President Donald Trump wrote a letter this month to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking his “support and facilitation” for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war and revitalizing the partnership between the two countries.

Taliban Ties

The U.S. and Western powers believe Pakistan’s powerful military has ties with the Taliban to hedge against its fears of Indian encirclement and influence in Afghanistan. So far the insurgent group, which controls and contests half the country, has rejected attempts by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to engage in direct negotiations with his administration, which the Taliban claims is a “waste of time” with what it describes as an illegitimate government.

Ghani’s office said on Twitter his negotiating team was in Abu Dhabi to begin “proximity dialogue” with the Taliban to reach an agreement for a face-to-face peace talks. The Taliban rejected Ghani’s statement. Talks began yesterday and will continue today with the delegates of U.S., UAE, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Faisal, confirmed on Twitter that the U.A.E. talks were taking place with hopes it “will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region.”

In September, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with Ghani, told an audience in New York that he’s seen no change in Pakistan’s policies toward the Taliban since Khan came to power after elections in July.

Pakistan continues to wield “significant” influence over the Taliban, Abdullah said, though he added the two countries are working together.

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