US Secretary of State makes unannounced visit to brief officials on Biden’s plan to withdraw US troops by September 11.
Islamabad, Pakistan – The leaders of Pakistan and Turkey have conferred on the continuing Afghan peace process, with Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in advance of key talks in Turkey this month, a statement says.
Khan spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan via telephone on Thursday, a statement released by his office said.
“In the regional context, Prime Minister [Khan] stressed the importance of a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan ahead of recently announced planned US [troop] withdrawal,” the statement said.
“The Prime Minister highlighted that Pakistan had fully supported and facilitated the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and the subsequent initiation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations.”
Khan said the intra-Afghan peace talks had provided a “historic opportunity … to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement”.
The Turkish government did not immediately release a statement on the conversation.
Turkey will host a 10-day Afghan peace summit from April 24, with representatives of the Afghan government, United States, United Nations, Qatar and others taking part.
The Taliban has refused to participate in talks. It issued a statement on Tuesday saying it would not engage in any further talks “until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland”.
Top US envoy visits Kabul
PM Khan’s statement comes as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Kabul on Thursday to brief officials on US President Joe Biden’s plan to withdraw US troops completely from Afghanistan by September 11.
Blinken met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, its peace talks chief Abdullah Abdullah and senior US officials on Thursday, saying his visit was meant to illustrate his country’s “ongoing commitment” to Afghanistan.
“The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring,” he said.
On Wednesday, US President Biden announced that his country would withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the longest war in US history.
The new date adds more than three months to the May deadline agreed between the US and the Taliban in February 2020.
The Taliban, which has been continuing its war against the Afghan government alongside stalled peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, reacted to the announcement by saying that if troops did not leave by the earlier agreed date, “problems will certainly be compounded”.
Pakistan played a key role in facilitating the first direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban and later between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
“In our view, it is important that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with the progress in the peace process,” said a Pakistani foreign ministry statement in response to Biden’s troop withdrawal plan.
“We hope that the forthcoming meeting of Afghan leadership in Turkey would be an important opportunity for Afghans to make progress towards a negotiated political settlement.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim