While on a state visit to Pakistan this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged Islamabad to ramp up its counterterrorism efforts in the region, including in regard to its role as a facilitator in the peace process between Afghanistan and the Taliban.
"China highly appreciates Pakistan's outstanding contribution to international counter-terrorism efforts," President Xi said on Tuesday while in Islamabad. "We support the Pakistan in moving forward with its counter-terrorism strategy in light of its own national conditions, and are prepared and willing to continue to help Pakistan strengthen its capacity, its ability to fight terrorism. And we support its effort in the Afghan peace process."
China's recent increased engagement with Afghanistan and Pakistan regarding regional security issues comes just as the NATO coalition withdraws much of its presence from the the two countries. Since the founding of the national unity government, China has played a greater role in pressuring Islamabad to get the Taliban to the negotiating table than ever before.
Most recently, Chinese officials have expressed growing concerns about insecurity along its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Just over a week ago, northern Badakshan province saw an Afghan National Army (ANA) outpost ambush and almost 30 soldiers killed by militants.
During the Chinese president's visit, however, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear that his country is committed to fighting the regional threat of terrorism as well as devoted to helping serve China's interests. "We have resolved to continue to cooperate to fight terrorism until we have cleansed our soil of this evil," he said. "I assured President Xi that Pakistan considers China's security as important as its own security."
Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) member Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, meanwhile, said Pakistan's dedication to China is based on aid support that Beijing provides. He, like many Afghans, seems to still have doubts about Islamabad's willingness to follow through on its promises. "The commitments and promises which are made to China with regard to security issues are linked to aid, but Pakistan now has to meet its commitments," Qasimyar said.
At the moment, the peace process appears to have more parties - both governments and individuals - working in its favor than ever before. While China has increased its involvement, putting pressure on Pakistan to contribute honestly, the United States has continued to look to leverage regional nations behind the cause of counterterrorism and peace with the Taliban.
The U.S. has sent a delegation to Central Asia as part of its contribution to Afghan peace talks. The American Assistant Secretary of State to Central and South Asia and the Assistant Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan are among the delegation members. During their four day tour in Central Asia, they are expected to visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also met with his Albanian counterpart in Washington this week and reiterated his country's commitment to combating terrorist threats around the world.
"Today we will have the pleasure of signing the U.S.-Albania Strategic Partnership, which is an effort to cooperate even more on our mutual interests against counter-terrorism for security in the region against ISIL [Daesh] and other initiatives," Kerry said.
On the Afghan side of things, former president Hamid Karzai has also reportedly begun efforts - endorsed by HPC - to open lines of communication with the Taliban and get the peace process moving. He is soon expected to meet with some Taliban representatives in Turkey or Germany. "They didn't reveal the details, but the meetings that are being held hope to pave the way for peace talks," Qasimyar told TOLOnews. "But he conducts the talks in line with the HPC," he added.