ISLAMABAD - Pakistan can consider hosting the talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban if the two parties make a request, officials said yesterday.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Pakistan was ready to facilitate the talks in “any way we can” for the sake of regional peace.

”Our main aim is regional peace. We have facilitated the (US-Taliban) talks before and will do that again. We can even host the two sides if requested,” said one official.

Another official said that Islamabad expected the new round of the dialogue process to be successful and result oriented.

“We will be happy to see the end of conflict in Afghanistan. This is in our own interest. We are hopeful of the talks success,” he added.

On November 29, US President Donald Trump had made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to US troops in Afghanistan and said he had believed Taliban would agree to a ceasefire in America’s longest war.

Islamabad expects meaningful outcome of dialogue

Trump’s visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal.

A US citizen and an Australian held hostage since 2016 were released along with 10 Afghan soldiers in exchange for three senior members of the Haqqani Network, which is linked to the Taliban.

Donald Trump told journalists after arriving in Afghanistan: “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them.”

The Taliban later confirmed the claim by President Trump that Washington had resumed informal talks with the Afghan armed group nearly two months after peace negotiations were abruptly suspended.

The group said some preliminary meetings had taken place in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the Taliban have an office, and could pave the way for the resumption of formal peace talks.

However, the group’s official spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said it was “way too early to talk about the resumption of talks for now.”

Pakistan earlier, welcomed Trump’s continued willingness to pursue a political settlement in war-torn Afghanistan by resuming dialogue with Taliban.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “It is a positive development, which will help in establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as in the region.”

He said that Pakistan will continue to facilitate Afghan peace and reconciliation process in close consultation with all stakeholders.

The foreign minister said: “All parties to the conflict are encouraged to engage constructively.”

This year, the US reached a deal in principle with the Taliban to pull out troops from the country and wind down the 18-year war in return for security guarantees.

But in a shock move in September, Trump called off the talks after an American soldier was killed in a Taliban attack.

About 13,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, 18 years after the US invaded the country in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Pakistan recently hosted an Afghan Taliban delegation who also met US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad -raising the prospects of talks.

The Afghan Taliban delegation -led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar - met Pakistani leadership including Prime Minister Imran Khan. Peace in Afghanistan was the focus of the meetings.

International relations expert Dr Huma Baqai said that there was a great paradigm shift in the US policies regarding Pakistan and “we have seen a changed mindset of the Trump administration.”

She said that the US administration had realized that Pakistan was an important partner in peace and imperative for the success of Afghan reconciliation process.

“India is envious of the fact that it has been sidelined in Afghan peace process and Kashmir issue has been highlighted at the international forum,” he said.