ISLAMABAD - Pakistan aims to help the dialogue between the United States and the Afghan Taliban become result-oriented for the sake of peace in the region, officials said yesterday.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Islamabad had assured Washington of all out support to make the talks fruitful.

“We want a deal (between the US and the Afghan Taliban) today instead of tomorrow.

We are more serious than anybody for peace in the region. We have our interest in peace. We want a resolution of the Afghan issue at the earliest,” said one official citing recent contacts with Washington.

He said the US had so far been satisfied with Pakistan’s role as Washington resumed talks with the Afghan Taliban after a break.

Another official said that Pakistan had also been in contact with Kabul. “We have told the Afghan government that we are not favouring any group in Afghanistan. We aim for peace which will benefit Afghanistan and the whole region,” he added.

Over the weekend, the US and Taliban officials announced a resumption of official negotiations for the first time since President Donald Trump abruptly halted talks three months ago to end the 18-year war.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban officials on December 7 in Qatar, the scene of previous negotiations, and continued the talks on December 8.

The restart follows Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to see US troops in Afghanistan on November 28, when he expressed hope that “the Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them.”

But the respective sides had not confirmed official talks until the December 7 announcements. A US statement said the new meetings would first focus on a Taliban pledge to curb violence but that the bigger goal was a permanent cease-fire.

The leader of the political wing of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is leading the talks for the Taliban side. The Taliban have consistently refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which the radical fundamentalist group accuses of being a puppet of the United States.

Khalilzad, who met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul last week, is also said to be seeking to get the Taliban eventually to sit down with Afghan government representatives.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the “only way forward” for the war in Afghanistan “is through a political agreement” with the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Trump, the third US commander in chief to preside over America’s longest war since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban leadership following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, has expressed a desire to withdraw the estimated 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s own national forces would be expected to step in, but political impasses, rampant corruption, and continuing insurgent violence have hamstrung an already stretched central government in Kabul.

Ghani, who shares power with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, is embroiled in a dispute with Abdullah over the results of a presidential election held in late September.

The US-Taliban talks officially began in July 2018 and were said to include a plan for the withdrawal of thousands of US troops as an early step.

In September, with reports of a deal close at hand and the US president said to be weighing a US visit by Taliban leaders to ink an agreement, Trump declared talks ‘dead’ and demanded an end first to the upsurge in violent attacks in Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents.

Amid Pak-Afghan governments contacts, Kabul yesterday allowed Pakistan International Airlines PK-250 flight to take off after halting it for two-and-a-half hour.

The issue was resolved after Pakistan raised it with Afghan leadership in Istanbul, Turkey, which is currently attending the Heart of Asia Conference there.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had yesterday left for Turkey on a two-day official visit to attend the Heart of Asia Conference in Istanbul. The FM informed the participants about the Afghan peace process and the steps taken by Pakistan for stability in the region during the conference.