President Ashraf Ghani's overtures of improved relations with Pakistan, particularly in context of reconciliation with the Taliban, are courageous and important, US officials said on Friday.
"I think Ghani’s been very courageous since his inauguration in talking about the need and desire for reconciliation. … The overtures he has made to Pakistan have been very important," one diplomat noted.
"I think these initial conversations with Pakistani civilian, military and intelligence leadership have been very important," Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman said.
He told foreign reporters at a news briefing the Pakistanis were, in turn, seeking to be responsive and to try to create the sort of environment that would be most conducive to some sort of a reconciliation process.
"We’ll see where that goes. But it’s something that we’re obviously very supportive of, and we want to ensure that we continue to do all that we can to create that environment," Feldman said at the Washington Foreign Press Centre.
He reiterated America's stance that the path to stability and sustainability in the region was through a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and senior Taliban leaders. He also outlined the redlines: Breaking from al-Qaida, renouncing violence and embracing the constitution.
Feldman praised Ghani for having taken a pragmatic and strategic approach to the relationship with Pakistan. This, he acknowledged, had helped to significantly change the dynamic in terms of the environment.
The envoy believed a sincere effort was being made by Pakistan to take advantage of the new environment and a recognition that long-term stability on their border was in their interest and that they had a role to play in trying to ensure a peaceful resolution.
"We will have to see what occurs, but in my conversations with civilian and military and intelligence leadership in Pakistan, I think, that there is an opportunity here that hasn’t been here in the past.
"Hopefully the appropriate parties can capitalise on it. Because we’ve long said that the conflict in Afghanistan won’t be ended only through military means, but has to be done through some sort of negotiated political settlement," he continued.
The role of other neighbours and near neighbours was one of the key reasons why the regional architecture was so important to have the opportunities to build linkages in the region, he said, stressing trade, transit, people-to-people contacts, investment, diplomatic and counterterrorism efforts.
"And hopefully a growing relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the interest of eliminating safe havens on both sides of the border, and that gets at the common scourge of extremism in both countries," he concluded.