Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are set to begin talks on Monday aimed at reviving the Afghan peace process and eventually ending 14 years of bloodshed fighting Taliban insurgents.
Officials from the four countries will meet in Islamabad, Pakistan foreign office sources said, in what they hope will be a first step towards resuming stalled negotiations. The Taliban are not expected to attend the talks.
The Islamist militants have stepped up their violent campaign in the last year to oust the government in Kabul, which has struggled since most foreign troops left at the end of 2014.
High-profile suicide attacks in the capital and major territorial losses in Helmand province have underlined how far the country remains from peace without major Taliban factions on board.
A previous fledging peace process last year was stopped after the Taliban announced that its founder, Mullah Omar, had been dead for two years, throwing the militant group into disarray and factional infighting.
Kabul has been trying to limit expectations of a breakthrough at Monday’s talks, and has said the aim is to work out a road map for peace negotiations and a way of assessing if they remain on track. Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai and Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry will attend the talks on Monday, Pakistani foreign office sources told Reuters.
Besides an official from China, the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson or the US ambassador would attend from the United States, a State Department official said.
“It’ll be an opportunity to further our partnership with Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in support of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation, which is what we’ve said all along we want to see,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“We’re obviously looking forward to ... trying to make some progress here on what has been a very difficult issue.”