Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister Jawed Ludin
Support is building among Afghanistan's regional neighbours for a comprehensive peace process with the Taliban, but Pakistan's backing and access to insurgent leaders are crucial to getting stalled talks on track, a top Afghan diplomat said.
Jawed Ludin, the deputy foreign minister and senior negotiator in talks with Washington on an Afghan-U.S. strategic pact, also said the two allies have also agreed on a deal to curb controversial night raids by NATO troops on Afghan homes, reports Reuters.
But Ludin - the main architect of Afghan foreign policy - said both sides had failed to communicate the benefits of the pact and dampen anxiety among Afghans that foreigners were preparing to abandon the country after a 2014 withdrawal of Western combat troops.
"We need to communicate better, we need to explain it better. There are various interests, there are people who play this up the wrong way, they explain it the wrong way," Ludin told Reuters late on Saturday ahead of a trip to Australia.
"Some would like to see this as our inability to succeed and then the end of commitment."
The United States and Afghanistan have for months been negotiating on a strategic pact for a long-term presence in Afghanistan of U.S. advisers and possibly some elite troops, while at the same time trying to draw the Afghan Taliban and other insurgents into twin-track peace talks.
But in March the Taliban suspended exploratory negotiations with the United States, seen by backers as a way to end the country's conflict, while refusing to meet President Hamid Karzai's government, calling its officials U.S. "stooges".
Ludin, a former chief of staff and spokesman for Karzai, said he was confident an agreement would soon be signed with Qatar to open a Taliban representative office in the Gulf state as a vehicle for talks, about which he was "positive".
Ludin said he also held strong hopes that both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia's governments would weigh in to give political momentum to Afghan government efforts to engage the Taliban.
"We are working under the assumption that once this process moves, and once we bring some of the other contributing elements to this, we need to make sure we create an environment with support from not just Pakistan, but other countries - notably Saudi Arabia - but above all Pakistan," said Ludin.
"I think at the regional level, we seem to be coming closer to a consensus that is basically the need of the day, and that there will have to be a political process, there will have to be something done to end violence and bring peace to Afghanistan."
The "key contribution" for talks to succeed would need to be from Pakistan, where the Afghan president travelled in February to ask for access to Taliban leaders belonging so the so-called Quetta Shura (council), Ludin said.