ISLAMABAD - The United States is set to discuss Afghanistan peace with Pakistan as Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will be in Islamabad over the weekend, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US was desperate to resolve the longstanding issue and slowly move out of the war-torn country.

“The US has acknowledged our efforts so far but wants more support (on Afghanistan). High-level contacts (between the US and Pakistan) are ongoing,” said one official.

Another official said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will meet top Pakistani civil and military leaders to find out ways on the resolution of the Afghanistan issue.

“This is not his (Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s) first visit. He has been regularly in touch. The US believes Pakistan has a crucial role to play on the Afghanistan issue,” he added.

Earlier, Zalmay Khalilzad had stressed the need for timely and credible presidential elections in Afghanistan. He said US did not expect the elections to be delayed, which is set to be held on September 28.

Khalilzad said the Taliban and the Afghan government may not reach peace accord before presidential elections but it will be better if an agreement was sealed with the Taliban before the elections. The US is ready to help Afghan Taliban get a share in power after the elections. Afghanistan presidential elections have been postponed twice this year.

The presidential election originally was scheduled for April 20, then was delayed to July 20 mainly because of security concerns and widespread scepticism about IEC’s ability to organize a fair ballot in the wake of last October’s controversial Afghan parliamentary polls.

Pak-US relations had taken a turn for the worse in recent years, with the US announcing a $300 million cut in military aid to Pakistan in 2018. US President Donald Trump attacked Pakistan on Twitter in November, saying it was not doing enough to stop terrorism.

However, recently, tension between the US and Pakistan had thawed with Trump praising Prime Minister Imran Khan’s role in facilitating the Afghan peace process.

Last month, Trump had said the US has developed a ‘much better’ relationship recently with Pakistan and had added that the US may set up some meetings with Pakistan.

Meanwhile yesterday, the US embassy hosted Pakistani officials, businesspeople, civil society, celebrities, and friends for a celebration that included music, traditional American food, and simulated fireworks to celebrate the 243rd anniversary of American independence. 

The evening’s guest of honor was Omar Ayub Khan, Federal Minister for Energy.  Under the theme of “Building a Vision,” speakers, photos, and video displays highlighted the common values underpinning US and Pakistani friendship and the shared goals of the two countries.

In his remarks, Ambassador Paul Jones, Chargé d’Affaires, explained the choice of theme: “The theme for today’s Independence Day celebration is ‘Building a Vision.’  We wanted to tell the story of how our two great countries built our nations, our capitols, our embassies, and our relationship.  The story brings out parallels, from founding principles of our nations to our respective investments in iconic embassies in each other’s capitals.  We are very proud of this brand-new, beautiful embassy compound – one of the largest in the world – which speaks to the value and commitment we place on the relationship between our countries.”

During the official ceremony, the embassy’s US Marine Corps Detachment marched in the flag of the United States and choirs sang the US and Pakistani national anthems.

After the formalities, guests took part in traditional April 4 activities and ate food that Americans normally enjoy as part of their Independence Day celebrations. 

For the evening’s featured entertainment, the United States Air Force Central Command’s band “Drop Zone” serenaded the guests with classic and modern rock and roll, country, and pop music, having flown to Pakistan from Doha to take part in the celebrations.