Envoy Nikki Haley says Afghan government is confident Islamabad can force Taliban to hold peace talks
Returning from a U.N. Security Council visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday stressed the Kabul government wants world powers to step up pressure on Pakistan.
Haley joined the 14 other council envoys for talks with top Afghan leaders in Kabul at the weekend as the government considers holding peace talks with the Taliban to end decades of insurgency. “They feel confident that the Taliban will be coming to the table,” Haley told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
While the peace talks will be Afghan-led, the Kabul government did request that the Security Council weigh in to bring Pakistan onboard. “They did ask us for consensus to put further pressure on Pakistan to come to the table and change their behavior,” Haley said.
The Afghan government is making strides towards stability, she said, and “continue to make 10 steps forward and with Pakistan they feel like they continue to take steps backward. As long as they are supporting terrorism in Pakistan, the Afghan community is continuing to feel it is not safe.”
Haley did not specify what measures could be taken to pressure Pakistan, but the council does have the power to impose sanctions.
Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Taliban and various militant groups in Afghanistan—charges it denies. President Donald Trump has frozen U.S. payments of military aid to Pakistan, worth $900 million, saying Pakistan is not doing enough to target Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. A question mark also hangs over a further $1 billion of U.S. military equipment for Pakistan.
U.S. officials believe that Pakistan’s intelligence agency and military have long helped fund and arm the Taliban to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan, whose government is backed by the U.S. The Afghan government also requested council help to address narcotics production and trafficking, looking at “every country that moves them,” said Haley.
The council visit—the first since 2010—comes as the government holds a conference next month to present its strategy for reaching a settlement with armed groups. Kazakhstan’s Ambassador Kairat Umarov, who led the council trip, said parliamentary elections must take place this year and be transparent “to ensure the credibility of the government” and “prevent further destabilization.”