Washington: As the US said on Tuesday it would hold direct peace talks with the Taliban in the next few days, the Obama administration acknowledged Pakistan`s role in bringing the Afghan militants to the negotiating table.
"I think Pakistan has been genuinely supportive of a peace process for Afghanistan. There has in the past been scepticism about their support, but in recent months we`ve seen evidence that there is genuine support and that they`ve employed their influence such as it is to encourage the Taliban to engage, and to engage in this particular format," a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.
Another senior administration official noted the change in Pakistan`s position with regard to Afghanistan in the last few years and identified Pakistan along with the US, Qatar and the Taliban as the core players of the latest development in the region.
"Obviously, the core players here are the governments of Afghanistan, Qatar, Pakistan, and the US. And, literally, its been months and months of sort of diplomatic state work to get us to a point where we think the (Taliban) office will open later today," the official added.
"Let me just add that Pakistan`s leaders have made clear for several years now that they understand that there`s no stability in Pakistan without stability in Afghanistan. So they understand that the security situation in the two countries are linked very tightly, so their support, as my colleague just described, is very much in keeping with their own national interest," a senior administration official said.
According to a third senior administration official, the US is continuing to train Afghan National Security Forces.
"We`ve transitioned security responsibility to an Afghan lead across the country. We`ve negotiated a strategic partnership with Afghanistan that will provide for US support after 2014 in our discussions around how to help them provide for two security missions-counter-terrorism, and training and equipping Afghans," he said.
"But also we feel that a political process is an important part of how we end this war, and so today is an important first step in that process, but its by no means the conclusion of that process," he added.
"Then the fifth element of our strategy was having a regional buy-in for stability in South Asia. And the constructive partnership of countries like Pakistan in supporting reconciliation I think is an indicator that we are moving forward and seeking to get that type of regional consensus," the official said.