Regional consensus and support for an Afghan-led peace process imp for enduring peace: US State Dept

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Washington, Jul 10 (PTI) The US has said that regional consensus and support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is important for an enduring peace, stressing that Afghanistan's neighbours and countries in the region have a real stake in the war-torn nation's future.

The comments came on Friday, hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a telephonic conversation with his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, amidst a rapid withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

During the call, Blinken underscored the importance of continued bilateral cooperation between the US and Pakistan.

The conversation took place in the backdrop of reports that the Taliban has made huge territorial gains in Afghanistan. Taliban militants are now thought to control about a third of the war-torn country.

“Afghanistan’s neighbours and countries in the region have a real stake in Afghanistan’s future and influence with the parties,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

“Regional consensus and support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is important for an enduring peace,” the spokesperson said in response to a question.

In reply to another question, the spokesperson said that security assistance to Pakistan was suspended in 2018.

“We continue to work with the Pakistan military on numerous issues and value our strong bilateral partnership,” the spokesperson said.

“We do not comment or speculate on policies that may or may not be under deliberation,” the official said when asked if President Joe Biden is reviewing the suspension of security assistance to Pakistan.

In May, Biden continued his predecessor Donald Trump's policy on suspending security assistance to Pakistan without any clarity if the administration will change its stance in the future.

Trump suspended all security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018, arguing that he was not satisfied with Islamabad's cooperation and role in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier during her daily news conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the American intelligence community has never said it was inevitable for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces from there.

“We have trained over 300,000. We've provided USD 3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance. These are brave fighters who have taken on casualties and fought off over the course of the last several years. We want to equip and empower them, and it is now in their hands. But it is not inevitable, nor has any intelligence assessment predicted it was inevitable,” she said.

Biden on Thursday announced that America’s nearly 20-year military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31.

The US military exit from Afghanistan before September 11 stems from the February 2020 agreement Washington signed with the Taliban in return for counterterrorism guarantees and pledges the group would negotiate a political settlement to the war with the Afghan government.

In April, President Biden announced that the US will withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, in an effort to end a deadly conflict that has cost trillions of dollars and the lives of more than 2,300 American troops. PTI LKJ RS RS

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