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Pakistan: U.S. Must Participate in Russia-Sponsored Afghan Peace Talks

The United States, as the “biggest stakeholder” in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, must be involved in the Russia-initiated discussions to negotiate peace between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, according to Pakistan.

On Friday, Russia plans to host its second round of “consultations” on the conflict in Afghanistan between an array of nations, stressing its stated goals of establishing a “regional approach” to promoting security in the war-ravaged country and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban jihadists, reports Voice of America (VOA).

While it invited Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and China to participate, Moscow excluded the United States from the last round of negotiations.

Russia did not include Afghanistan in the peace discussions until last December, which marked the third in a series of Moscow-hosted talks.

President Donald Trump’s administration has refused to participate in the upcoming Moscow conference, questioning Russia’s intentions and motives, notes VOA.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have expressed concern about Russia’s support for Taliban terrorists.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” explained Tariq Fatemi, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, according to VOA.

Fatemi stopped short of conceding America’s absence would prevent the multi-nation process from achieving its mission.

The United States has devoted more than $117 billion on reconstruction efforts alone. Moreover, U.S. military fatalities have reached at least 2,249, Pentagon figures show.

There have also been at least 20,210 injury incidents since the ongoing war started in October 2001.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” added Fatemi when Pakistan’s Aaj TV asked whether the Moscow-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without the United States.

Pakistan’s suggestion that Russia should include the United States in the talks comes a few months after Islamabad threatened to cozy up to China and Russia, characterizing America as a “declining” world power.

“[The] U.S. is no longer a world power. It is a declining power. Forget about it,” declared Mushahid Hussain Syed, the Pakistani special envoy to the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, noting that Islamabad and Moscow have been building up their relationship.

Syed made those comments in October before President Donald Trump’s recent airstrikes against troops loyal to Russia’s ally Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a move that has sparked tensions between Washington and Moscow.

“Pakistan is keeping itself engaged with all major processes aiming for peace in Afghanistan and isn’t committing itself to any one particular initiative,” now reports the country’s Dawn newspaper.

Moscow is expected to host the next conference on Afghan peace negotiations on Friday.

While the United States has questioned Russia’s intentions, Pakistan believes Moscow is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage the terrorists to join the peace discussions.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” including former Soviet Republics, revealed Pakistan’s Fatemi.

Moscow has invited former Soviet Central Asian states to attend the April 14 conference for the first time.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which includes the United States, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, has repeatedly failed to bring the Taliban to the peace negotiation table.

Taliban jihadists say they have no reason to participate in peace talks because they are winning the war.

Although it did not invite the United States to take part in the first round of Moscow-initiated peace discussions, Russia has acknowledged that the U.S. is an “important player” in establishing peace in Afghanistan.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” maintained the Russian foreign ministry, VOA reports.

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