Pakistan starts behind-scenes aid to US-Taliban talks

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"I am not seeking to monopolise the diplomacy of peace", he said, and also offered rare praise to Pakistan, which he credited for helping push the Taliban to the negotiating table. Sources caution its help could be temporary.

Since being appointed in September, Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America's longest war in which the United States has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.

The Afghan Taliban has said that despite the ongoing talks with the USA and other regional powers, it had "not yet reached" any conclusion that would entail an immediate end to hostilities against America and its allies, according to a media report.

Appreciating the role Islamabad was playing in promoting peace talks, Khalilzad said: "Pakistan is an important country and we want better relations with Pakistan". But he said there are ongoing discussions about arranging some sort of cease-fire. They are going to be part of the political process of Afghanistan.

"The US emphasizes intra-Afghan dialogue, but does not assert the Afghan government's leading role in the peace process".

Five civilians were freed from a Taliban prison after the Afghan army waged an operation overnight in northern Kunduz province, authorities said Friday. In one instance, Islamabad sent a message to the militants through religious leaders that they had to talk to the United States or risk a cut-off in ties.

But Mujahid said that, even in Moscow talks, nothing concrete was achieved that would compel them to end the war and military pressure, the channel reported.

"I haven't seen Pakistan so serious before", the senior Taliban leader said.

He said that Pakistan should avoid both, appeasing the Taliban or capitulating its stance on Afghanistan under external pressure.

The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar's appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with U.S. officials gain momentum. Trump at the time accused Islamabad of rewarding past US aid with "nothing but lies & deceit".

"I would be wary of taking that and extrapolating off that and saying they're now on board with the peace process", said Jason Campbell, who was the Pentagon's Afghanistan country director until a year ago and is now at the RAND Corporation think tank.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan has failed, Karzai said, adding that the military presence of American troops and their allies on Afghan soil had only led to "many people suffering at their hands".

Pakistani sources suggest that the driver behind their country's support for the talks is not USA aid but growing concerns over the regional economic shock waves that could follow an abrupt US pullout from Afghanistan. "Baradar has a reputation of being more open, more pro-peace", the diplomat told an audience at the US Institute of Peace.

"We have enough economic issues of our own to deal with already".

Responding to a question regarding the timing of the talks, the militant commander explained that, even prior to the USA invasion, the Taliban had asked Washington to engage in dialogue instead of war, the channel said.

Now the newly appointed chief negotiator, Baradar is expected to fly from Pakistan to attend the next round of negotiations in Doha on February 25.

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