ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States are finding ways to placate the Afghan Taliban after they cancelled scheduled talks with Washington this week.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Islamabad and Washington were in contact to bring back the Taliban on the table and accept the engagement of the Afghan government.

“Efforts are underway to placate the Taliban. The main aim is to convince them to engage with the Afghan government. There is no hurdle in Taliban-US talks,” said one official.

He said the Taliban see the Afghan government as a ‘puppet’ with no decision-making powers. “This is the reason they want to speak directly to the US,” he added.

Another official said Pakistan had urged the Taliban to accept the Afghan government so that the talks’ process could move forward. “The efforts are ongoing (in this regard). We (Pakistan and the US) are trying to find ways to placate the Taliban,” he said.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was facilitating the Afghan peace process as Islamabad believed in negotiated settlement of the issue.

He said Pakistan had been facilitating efforts for a peaceful solution to the Afghanistan issue. Faisal said Pakistan believed that an intra-Afghan dialogue was the only way to a successful negotiated settlement.

Last day, the Afghan Taliban called off talks with US officials scheduled in Qatar reportedly over an ‘agenda disagreement.’ The US wanted to engage the Afghan government in talks – an option unacceptable to the Taliban.

This week, 21 members of Afghanistan’s security forces were killed in the Badghis province in an attack. The attacks left another 23 members of the security forces wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for all the attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s special peace envoy Mohammed Omer Daudzai said the war that had ravaged Afghanistan for more than 17 years and cost the United States about $1 trillion will end this year.

He however, warned that unless Taliban cooperate, there will not be peace. The Taliban have held several rounds of talks with US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad but have rejected direct talks with the Afghan government.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been pressing the Taliban to engage Afghan government in the talks.

Daudzai said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘heart and mind is in the right place. We are hopeful. We have received all the right signals.’

In a separate statement, Daudzai, who is currently in Islamabad on an official visit, said: “I don’t want to get into the past, but in the present, there is much evidence that Pakistan is playing a positive role in Afghan peace talks. Pakistan’s attitude towards Afghanistan has also changed.”

The US has intensified efforts to resolve the Afghanistan issue and sent US Special Representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to hold talks with the Pakistani leaders after Afghan Taliban cancelled peace talks with the US in Qatar. US State Department said Khalilzad will also visit India among other countries in the region as part of the process for an intra-Afghan political settlement.

The US had toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. They had called off their meeting with the US officials in Saudi Arabia this week after Riyadh insisted to bring the Afghan government to the table. The talks will be the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad. Pakistan and Iran are trying to persuade the Taliban to meet Afghan officials.

The US, which sent troops to Afghanistan in the wake of September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and at the peak of the deployment had more than 100,000 troops in the country, withdrew most of its forces in 2014. It keeps around 14,000 troops there as part of a NATO-led mission aiding Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

Last day, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged for intra-Afghan dialogue to resolve the Afghan issue through peaceful means. The minister particularly called upon Taliban to come on the negotiating table with the Afghan government to give a chance to peace and stability in their homeland.

Qureshi said outsiders can do a little to help Afghans overcome war if they do not sit together for a political settlement.

Yesterday, Afghan Special Envoy Umer Daudzai held a meeting with Jamat Islami Amir Sirajul Haq to discuss steps for normalcy in Afghanistan.

“A peaceful Afghanistan is essential for the neighboring Pakistan and the regional peace,” said Sirajul Haq. He said the key to peace in Afghanistan lied in the hands of the Afghan people.

Daudzai had earlier met Foreign Minister Qureshi who assured him that Pakistan would make all-out efforts to seek an end to the conflict in the neighbouring country.

US President Donald Trump had recently announced calling back a significant number of US troops from Afghanistan.