Islamabad - The United States and Pakistan yesterday pushed for a swift resumption of Afghan peace talks despite Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s saying he would not rush into negotiations. US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif yesterday to build on the momentum for peace after Afghanistan agreed to talk to all Taliban factions and re-establish intelligence sharing and security cooperation with Islamabad.

The announcement by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahudin Rabbani at the Heart of Asia Conference on Wednesday followed meetings with the American, Chinese and Pakistani officials and was widely welcomed. The US and Pakistan moved quickly to capitalise on the new mood amid signs of dissent within Afghanistan as the head of Kabul’s NDS intelligence service Rahmatullah Nabil resigned the same day, blaming Pakistan’s alleged interference in Afghanistan and pressure from President Ashraf Ghani for his decision.

Rahmatullah opposed not only talks with the Taliban but also bitterly resisted signing of intelligence sharing agreement with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI.

The Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor also dampened hopes of a rapid return to talks in an audio message posted on the group’s official website shortly before President Ghani arrived in Islamabad for talks on the country’s future.

While he did not rule out dialogue he said it would be on the group’s terms. “We will make political maneuvers together with our military efforts only when we deem it necessary. It will not be done because of signals by others or pressure or force,” he said. His reluctance was reiterated when Taliban fighters laid siege to Kandahar Airport during the Heart of Asia conference on Tuesday in an attack which lasted 27 hours and left more than 50 dead.

Despite these challenges, Afghanistan’s foreign Minister Salahudin Rabbani on Wednesday said a high level Afghan delegation will visit Pakistan in the coming days to discuss arrangements for the talks.

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Washington’s ambassador to Pakistan David Hale and President Barack Obama’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson met Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff yesterday to accelerate the process. During the meeting at Army General Headquarters the two sides “reiterated the need of early resumption of reconciliation process to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan which is so critical for stability in the region,” according to an Army statement.