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U.S. Envoy In Islamabad Amid Tensions Between Afghanistan, Pakistan

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad talks to the media in Nur-Sultan last month.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has met with political and military leaders in Pakistan amid a further worsening in relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

Khalilzad's visit on July 19 came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recalled all diplomats from neighboring Pakistan two days after the daughter of Kabul's ambassador was briefly abducted and allegedly "tortured."

Silsila Alikhil was on her way home when she was seized by unknown assailants for several hours and "severely tortured," Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 17. It didn't provide further details.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said she had been hospitalized and that a "thorough investigation" into the "disturbing" incident was launched.

But Ghani ordered the diplomats, including the ambassador, to return to Kabul "until the government of Pakistan punished the kidnappers...and until the security of the Afghan ambassador and diplomats in that country was guaranteed," his spokesman Waheed Omar said on July 18.

On July 19, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar discussed the case with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Pakistan is seen as key to peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is said to be in Pakistan, and Islamabad has used its leverage to press the Taliban to talk peace.

Khalilzad on July 19 met with Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the powerful heads of the military and the intelligence service, the ISI. He arrived in Islamabad from Qatar, where the Taliban and Afghan government representatives held two days of talks that ended late on July 18 with a pledge by the warring sides to meet again.

It was the highest level of talks so far aimed at jump-starting a peace process that has fizzled while the militants stepped up an offensive that brought them substantial territorial gains as U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout.

In a statement following Khalilzad's visit, Khan was quoted as saying, "Conflict and instability in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan's interest, as it would lead to serious challenges for Pakistan in areas of security and influx of refugees."

Pakistan already hosts nearly 2 million Afghans, refugees from four decades of war.

Senior Pakistani security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Khalilzad pressed Pakistan to push Taliban leaders to accept a cease-fire or at least reduce the violence to allow a peace process to take root.

This story is based on reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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