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Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during a day-long visit to Kabul, and both leaders have agreed to call upon the Afghan Taliban to enter into new peace processes in recognition that there is no military solution for the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Talks between the two leaders follow Ghani’s offer in February to recommence negotiations with the Taliban in a movement to recognize the fundamentalist group as a political party as well as to engage in an exchange of prisoners. Previous direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban dissolved in 2015, following the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The Taliban has not yet officially responded to the recent offers of negotiation, although they have restated a previous demand to discuss with the United States before engaging in talks with Kabul.
A statement released by the office of the Pakistani Prime Minister holds that both leaders “agreed that there was no military solution to the ongoing Afghan conflict, and that the political solution was the best way forward.” Both authorities called on the Taliban to “respond positively to the peace offer and to join the peace process without further delay,” according to the statement. Prime Minister Abbasi has gifted 40 000 tonnes of wheat to the Afghan people, with Al Jazeera reporting that the negotiations represent an important attempt at reducing tensions between the neighbouring countries, which have consistently accused one another of failing to respond adequately to the influence of the Taliban.
These talks may represent a crucial step towards peacefully and effectively addressing ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The decision to offer a ceasefire and attempt to find a non-violent and diplomatic political solution is extremely positive. It is vital that the international community continues to support the Afghan government in achieving this. A statement released by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlines the key principles encapsulated by the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a framework to guide dialogue between the two countries with the goal of increasing peace and security. Notably, it mentions that both countries should “avoid public blame games” and “commit to deny the use of their respective countries by any country, network, group or individuals for anti-state activities against either country.”
Violent attacks perpetrated by the Taliban have resulted in thousands of Afghan civilian deaths. Devastatingly, attempts by the Afghan government to address the insurgence militarily have resulted in numerous deaths of civilians, including the April air attack in Kunduz province. The Taliban’s informal response to President Ghani’s February invitation for negotiations has been cold, but there is hope that persistence on behalf of the Afghan government in pursuing peace talks will result in a positive outcome.
Renewed interest on behalf of the Afghan government to find a peaceful solution for ongoing conflict in the country must be applauded and supported by the international community. APAPPS can be perceived as a promising step forward on behalf of both Pakistan and Afghanistan towards putting aside old tensions and building a stronger relationship with the goal of improving security for both countries.