President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Representative on Regional Affairs for Consensus on Peace, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, has expressed hopes the war that has ravaged Afghanistan for over 17 years and cost the United States about 1 trillion US dollars will end in 2019.
Daudzai summed up his optimism in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying: “We are naming 2019 as a year of peace for Afghanistan.”
“We have never named a year as the year of peace. Now, from the high peace council's address, we are naming 2019 as the year of peace in Afghanistan. And I am pretty sure we will get there,” he said.
However, he cautioned there won’t be peace until the Taliban, who have held several rounds of talks with Washington’s special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, agree to direct talks with the Afghan government.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan, all the political government, is on the same page with the military establishment. And we see every sign of that, that’s a good thing to see in Islamabad. So, we are very hopeful, we have all the right kind of symptoms and signals from Islamabad. At the moment we have no reasons to doubt their contribution,” he added.
He said Pakistan has influence on the Taliban and that Taliban should be “encouraged” to come to the negotiations table.
“They (Pakistan) have influence over the Taliban. I would hate to accept the use of the word ‘force’. When you force somebody to come to talk then they don't talk. You have to encourage them, you have to convince them that it is in their interest to come to the negotiating table and I think that's what Pakistan is doing,” Daudzai said.
So far, Taliban has refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.
Khalilzad is on a new tour of the region and will travel to India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This time he isn’t expected to visit Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.