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Pakistan's Khan Talks Afghan Peace With U.S. Envoy Khalilzad

FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) meets with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad.
FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) meets with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad discussed Afghan peace efforts with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on October 29, Khan's office said in a statement.

Khan "reiterated Pakistan’s steadfast and sincere support to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process launched since last year,” and called on all sides in Afghanistan's protracted war to "take practical steps for the reduction of violence," the statement said.

Khalilzad extended his stay in Pakistan on October 29 as part of efforts to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan's 18-year war.

Pakistan has been pushing for a resumption of direct U.S.-Taliban talks since they collapsed in early September after U.S. President Donald Trump halted talks with the militants and canceled what had appeared to be an imminent deal.

Trump's decision came after a series of violent attacks in Afghanistan that killed several people, including a U.S. soldier.

Khalilzad's meeting with Khan came amid confusion over a Chinese offer to host a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan officials.

The Taliban last week said the China conference -- the second such meeting after a dialogue in Qatar in July -- would take place October 29-30. The U.S. State Department welcomed China’s offer in a joint statement on October 28 after Khalilzad's talks in Moscow last week with Chinese, Russian, and Pakistani officials.

However, on October 29, a Taliban spokesman denied a report that said a Taliban delegation was in Beijing.

China also failed to confirm the meeting but said it would support an "Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process."

"China is willing to provide facilitation and assistance to promote the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, including internal Afghan dialogue and negotiation, on the basis of respect for the wishes of all parties," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing on October 29 in Beijing.

Civilian casualties have been rising fast in recent months, according to the United Nations, which blames both insurgents and U.S. and Afghan government security forces. So far this year, there have been more than 8,000 casualties.

Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he met with leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, who has mostly dismissed any talks with the Taliban not led by the Kabul government. After his talks with Khan, Khalilzad is scheduled to meet with senior Pakistani military commanders.

On October 29, Ghani's national-security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told reporters in Kabul that the government is seeking a month's cease-fire with the Taliban before any negotiations, as well as evidence that the Taliban leaders can restrain their fighters. The Taliban now holds sway over nearly half of Afghanistan, and has refused to talk to the government in Kabul, which it considers a U.S. puppet.

Mohib also blamed Pakistan for the war and urged Islamabad to sever ties with Taliban. Mohib has been a strident critic of U.S. talks with the Taliban and publicly railed against Khalilzad earlier this year in Washington. Since then, he has been shunned by U.S. officials.

Meanwhile, officials said that at least 20 soldiers were killed in an overnight Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s northern province of Jawzjan.

At least two other soldiers disappeared following the attack on a military base in the Aqchah district, a member of parliament representing the province, Mohammad Karim Jawzjani, and provincial council member Abdul Hai Hayat said.

Based on reporting by AP, Tolo News, AFP, and BBC

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