By the Associated Press
ISLAMABAD — The Taliban announced Wednesday they are sending a high-level delegation to Pakistan’s capital as part of a tour that has included Russia, China and Iran in a push to resurrect an Afghanistan peace deal with Washington that seemed imminent just a month ago.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar, will lead the 11-member delegation during talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.
Wednesday’s visit comes weeks after President Donald Trump announced that Washington’s talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan are “dead.”
It also comes after Pakistani media reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghan peace talks, was in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials.
Neither Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry nor the U.S. Embassy would comment on the Taliban and Khalilzad visits.
Since Trump ended talks with the Taliban, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and other officials have been urging Washington to resume talks on ending nearly 18 years of fighting in neighboring Afghanistan where, violence has increased in recent months.
Over the past year, the Afghan government was sidelined in the U.S.-Taliban talks with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with Kabul officials as they consider the Afghan government a U.S. puppet. Meanwhile, Taliban attacks have continued unabated, even as Afghanistan held presidential elections Saturday, and weeks after the U.S.-led peace talks collapsed.
Saturday’s vote was marred by violence, Taliban threats and widespread allegations of mismanagement and abuse. It was the fourth time Afghans have gone to the polls to elect a president since 2001 when the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime.
Pakistan has said it will try to convince the Taliban to hold talks with Kabul when they reach any deal with Washington.